Roller Derby embraces women of all sizes. According to Bay Rollers’ Emma Hand, or, as she’s known on the track, Crystal Beth, ‘everything about roller derby functions with a DIY philosophy. All the leagues are run by the players and enthusiastic members who, although they may not skate, share the passion for roller derby with the skaters.
‘The Bay Rollers are made up of an eclectic bunch of women (as well as our very own ref, Certified Male). On board we have school teachers, nurses, local business owners, a youth worker, actress, fitness instructor, mums, and a mother/daughter duo.’
So how does a nice girl suddenly morph into a skate demon?
‘I went and watched one of the Bay Rollers’ games. I was never going to do it. I thought it was ridiculous, and I watched one game and just had to do it! I went online and bought a whole heap of gear…’
We’re talking mouth guards, knee guards, elbow guards… helmets!
‘I went to the beach last summer,’ Emma laughs, ‘with a line of bruises down my body.’ Although Emma asserts that training ‘conditions’ players to experience less injury, the sport requires high levels of fitness.
‘It’s really physical; you don’t realise how hard you are working out at the time though, because it’s so much fun.’
So how does Roller Derby work?
‘The aim is that each team has a player called the jammer,’ says Emma, ‘and their job is to break through the pack and lap, and each time they pass a member of the opposite team they score a point; and the blockers who are in the pack – their job is to stop the opposite jammer and assist their own jammer in getting through.’
‘There are five players on the track maximum – unless players are in the sin bin.’
Okay, so how do you get in the sin bin? They don’t have a sin bin in netball.
‘You get sin binned for blocking against the direction of play. You can hit above the knees to the shoulder, and you are aiming for the hips and the chest. You can hit with your body or your booty. There are no elbows, no punching people in the face, no headbutting.’
Oh my God. I can imagine skating at top speed with five women’s booties coming for me. That’s terrifying!
Emma believes that Roller Derby embraces women of all shapes and sizes – it’s a celebration in fact of strength and endurance, and not for the light hearted. The Rollers are actually looking at setting up a youth league so young women can experience what Emma neatly phrases ‘a very healthy rebellion!’.
But this won’t happen until the girls have a home ground. To date they practise at the skate rink in Ballina and up at Tweed. Once the Byron sports fields open, they will be training and playing at the Byron sports centre. With audiences packing games up and down the coast, when the Bay Rollers finally come home, this is sure to create even more of a phenomenon.
As part of the North Coast Derby Coalition, the Bay Rollers’ next game is at Tweed’s Epic Skate on 21 July; ticket information is available on their website.
Locals have a chance to meet the girls and fall in love with derby by attending their upcoming movie night hosted by new Bay Rollers’ sponsor, the Hotel Great Northern. This is a chance for those who are keen on derby to sign up or get information about the next intake.
Derby Baby is the story of love, addiction and rink rash by Emmy-award-winning filmmakers Robin Bond and Dave Wruck, who take you with them on their international quest to learn why women’s flat-track roller derby is the fastest-growing sport in the world.
Narrated by actress/musician Juliette Lewis (star of Whip It, Derby, Baby! explores the drama, the friendships, and the addictive nature of women’s flat-track roller derby, including never-before-seen bout footage of the international flat-track roller derby champions.
Also screening will be Derby Wives, a short documentary on the derby wife phenomenon as shared by the Northside Rollers from Melbourne, Victoria.
Derby Baby! Film Premiere followed by DJ Stevie Starr! Thursday 12 July
The Northern Hotel, Johnson St Byron Bay.
Doors open 7.30pm, film starts 8pm.
Tickets $10 + BF/ $15 Door. For more info: http://bayrollers.com