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Why roller derby should be your next obsession

Photo by John Hesse for the London Roller Girls

We love sports, but none can compare to roller derby. It's as much performance art as it is a competition and, for us, that's what makes it so unique. This sport has literally everything we could want: powerful women sporting hot pants, tattoos, and villainous alter egos, skillful high-speed skating, full contact body slams, and more than a touch of witty humor. Crowds attending derby events (known as bouts) exhibit all the competitive fire and nail-biting nerves of diehard NFL fans watching a Super Bowl show down. Within moments of a bout starting, you will be overwhelmed by roller derby's sheer epicness and we don't doubt you'll be on the edge of your seat for the rest of play.

Photo by Earl McGehee

Photo by Masonite Burn

If the action alone isn't enough to sell you on roller derby, let's talk about the skaters. These gladiatorial women often compete in character. Their alter egos, who are typically ferociously edgy and often costumed with fishnets, outstanding makeup or face paint, and insurgent confidence, adopt names that usually incorporate seriously wicked puns. A few of our favorites are:

Rita Her-Rights

Jalapeño Business

Killer Bee-otch

Bella deBrawl

Carmen Getsome

Paige Security

Tempura Tantrum

Barbara Ambush

Bunsen Burn Her


We love the salty moment depicted above when the gothic Re-Animateher discovered a skater on the opposing team had copied her makeup and was casting serious name-shade. Talk about a bold move! Even the referees (who are referred to as zebras) have fierce names (we're talking about you, Seymoure Carnage and Atticus Flinch!). And managing the technical side of play are non-skating officials who are easy to spot as they rock white lab coats.

Photo by Masonite Burn

The skating and non-skating officials act as moderators and do their best to enforce the relatively straightforward rules. Bouts are broken down into intervals of play, referred to as jams, that are separated by 30 second breaks. Jams take place on ovoid flat tracks with ten total skaters, five from each of two teams. Teams have four blockers who form the pack and one jammer who is identified with a large star on her helmet. Blockers begin on the starting pivot line with the two jammers positioned behind them; the first jammer to break through the pack gets the distinction of lead jammer and the power to dictate when the jam ends. After an initial pass through the pack, jammers earn points by lapping skaters on the opposing team. However, blockers attempt to prevent the opposing jammer from escaping the pack by— you guessed it—blocking. While this blocking can't involve tripping, elbowing, or other blatant acts of violence, the jams are full of formidably heavy contact that satisfies all our base desires to witness controlled ruthlessness (especially when our team is dishing out the contact rather than enduring it!).

This might sound simplistic but the skaters are exhilaratingly clever. It's not uncommon to see blockers slingshot their jammers through seemingly impenetrable packs and jammers grab the hips of a teammate in front them to protect themselves from encroaching blockers and ultimately propel themselves forward escaping even the most organized blocker walls (it's as superhuman as it sounds). Craving some extra drama? Well roller derby offers that too! The blocker who leads the pack is known as the pivot and this skater can exchange places with their jammer at any point which always elicits huge roars of the crowd. And don't get us started on power jams, when the opposing team's jammer is stuck in the penalty box and your team gets the opportunity to score without a challenger. It's epic and makes you feel invincible.

Photo by Masonite Burn

There is undeniable artistic undertone to roller derby. Observing the creative personas and ingeniously sharp wordplay, we have come to appreciate that the physicality, while gripping, is simply an opportunity to decompress and express one's self in a supportive judgement free space. Day jobs becomes irrelevant and skaters can be anyone they want to be on the track. As spectators, we are entertained by sport while we witness true human authenticity. What could be better than that?

Photo by Masonite Burn


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