So I popped along to Havant on Saturday to watch the Portsmouth Roller Wenches take on the B-team of the Birmingham Blitz Dames. This was my first experience watching roller derby and I wasn’t sure what to expect; in hindsight it might have been an idea to read up on the rules and not rely on my scientific mind (what was I thinking?) to try (and fail) to determine the rules through observation.
The basic rules of roller derby – I’ve subsequently surmised – are that five players from each team take to the circuit, four of whom serve as blockers while one has the job of passing through the blocking pack, circling around, then passing through again scoring a point for every person passed this time (and successive ones) through. Blocking can be made with anything from the shoulder to the hip, but not the elbows. Advanced rules include hands-on-hips gestures to end the two-minute jams early (this rule is described as “advanced” because I couldn’t work out why it occurred. There are a lot of advanced things in the world, you won’t be surprised to hear) and people called pivots. I don’t know why they’re called pivots.
- roller derby is a lot of fun for both competitors and spectators and as one of the latter group you can even get involved in audience participation with a circling of the track and a high five with all the players, officials, and helpers at the end of the game (do they do that in full contact golf? No they do not),
- everybody has a nickname, often alliterative or rhyming and almost always with brutal overtones, and these are very entertaining too (personal favourite: Lady Von Whack ‘n’ Smack),
- the women wear helmets, elbow pads, hand pads, and knee pads; after seeing some of the falls I would also recommend buttock pads or competing in a Zorb ball,
- the small venue and lots of bumping and blocking makes for great photo opportunities (I took some photos you won’t be surprised to hear: Wenches versus Blitz Dames) even though the ISO needed to be horribly high and the colour cast from the leisure centre’s lighting was a shade of green/yellow known as Arse, that’s a horrible green/yellow in the latest Dulux catalogue
There’s another roller derby event coming up in a few weeks’ time, the last public bout of 2012.
As you can tell – using the power of your eyes to read it – it’s taking place in Havant again and this time the Portsmouth Roller Wenches will be taking on the High Rollers of Buckinghamshire (click the image above to view the event page). If you want to support local sport and local people and have a good time too then it’s highly recommended; there are opportunities to join up or just learn roller skating as well if you’re one of those strange people inclined towards physical activity.