Kill Devil Derby Brigade Rolls Out a New Sport
By Laura Martier –
The women trickled in to Aviation Skate Park in KDH and began skating leisurely, side by side in the middle of what looked like two elongated donuts, one inside the other. Two, then three walked through the gated fence quickly pulling on skates and protective gear. I knew several of the women and they stopped to say hi and exchange a few words before joining the others warming up. Eventually, I counted eleven women, all members of the relatively new Kill Devil Derby Brigade.
Flat track roller derby is a fast-paced contact team sport that requires speed, strategy, and athleticism. The flat track version of the sport evolved in 2001, and has quickly grown to encompass more than 400 leagues worldwide. The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the governing body for women’s flat track roller derby, sets standards for rules, seasons and safety, and determines guidelines for the national and international athletic competitions of member leagues.
The women drawn to derby are not unlike you or me. They are from all walks of life and on this team their ages range from 22 to 50. They are pre-school teachers, business owners, massage therapists, acupuncturists, women who are looking to get in shape, compete in a sport, make friends and find something that they can call their very own outside of the busy life most of us have juggling work, family and our dreams. Jill, known as “Jaggedy” and a mother of two told me, “It’s my thing.”
While many of the women skating that day were taking time for themselves, several of them were working out while their husbands or boyfriends practiced on their own skates to become referees or officials for the team. Their children, on skates and bicycles, also enjoyed the park on a beautiful March evening. I was told by one skater, “It’s very family oriented,” and I could see it was true.
I asked a young boy who looked to be about five years old if his mom was out there. “… Umm,” he said pointing to an athletic looking young woman picking up speed around the track, “Her name is Pain Angel.” She acknowledged him with a smile and a nod and he left to ride around the park on his bike where older siblings and fathers were taking care of the younger ones. I watched one mom skate off of the track to help her young daughter and then take out her mouth guard to kiss her before she happily skated away.
As I watched them warm up I noticed immediately the pleasure and ease these women had with each other. Most everyone was smiling and laughing and chatting, sharing stories with each other about their families, their work, their day and derby.
As the pace of the practice accelerated, the women fell in to a single line following the commands of their coach, Willow Lewis (aka Cammunition), stretching arms, shoulders and knees all in unison. They skated faster, left arm behind their backs occasionally reaching out with their right arms to touch the back of the skater in front of them.
In a circle they continued stretching on the ground and did a series of push-ups, side planks, leg lifts and ab-work using their skates as weights. Their referee, Hacksaw, evaluated a scrimmage the team participated in against the Dominion Derby Girls from Norfolk, answering questions from the team about the rules and opposing team’s referees.
Apparently it was rough. Flat track roller derby is a rough sport, but anytime you put your body on the line to compete in a sport, you risk getting injured. The Kill Devil Derby Brigade does everything they can to prevent injury through strength training, knowing the rules and regulations, wearing the required safety gear and then some. In addition to the helmet, knee, elbow, hand and mouth guards, I saw an array of extra padding for bottoms, hips and thighs. The women who sustained injuries on the team still showed up for practice, either to skate or participate in other ways.
Watching them I longed to be a part of it. I was amazed at the physical stamina, strength and tenacity of the entire team who were clearly enjoying the first of three practices they would have this week. With names like Pain Angel, Boom Boom Anncini, Stormer Brewin’, Rollin Bayou and Jaggedy, these women step onto the track transformed and escape from the day-to-day to embrace, “a tougher, edgier side of themselves,” committing themselves to the Kill Devil Derby Brigade and flat track roller derby, the fastest growing sport in America.