Welcome, or fuck you, depending.
I'm not here to tell you how many calories you can burn roller skating, I'm here to incite and entertain.
Take me or leave me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Welcome to Roller Derby

Welcome to Roller Derby
 We've been waiting for YOU!

Lately I have been writing a lot of e-mails to interested skaters and potential recruits. I end up describing my league, the basics of roller derby and every single piece of gear, over and over again. Sometimes I forget certain parts and some e-mails are more thorough than others, so I’ve been meaning to draft an all inclusive document that provides everything that I can always refer to when contacting newbies. I decided to post my welcome letter as a sort of tribute culmination of East Bay Roller Derby’s first four weeks. Hopefully it might be helpful to someone, also.

Welcome to Roller Derby!

So, you want to be a roller girl huh? You must be drawn to that same magnetic energy which attracted all of us. I welcome you. May you always feel surrounded by the love and acceptance of your derby family.

This will serve as a preliminary notice of everything you need to know to get started.

Fair Warning: You are going to fall. Get used to it. Accept this fact early. Now, unlike some derby skaters- I refuse to accept that it is only a matter of time before you get hurt, I don’t think injury is inevitable. But you WILL fall.

A little about leg wear: It’s not just cute, it’s functional. Roller Derby is a full contact sport- we fall a lot. The place I consistently bruise is my upper thighs, and I’ve learned my lesson time and time again- wear stockings! If you do not get big strawberries, you will at least get big bruises. It’s not preventable, but you can minimize the hurt.

 And yes, this is my ass.

This sport is for all types, big or small, the prima donna, plain jane, or tomboy. Don’t want to wear a skirt? Don’t. Never played a sport before? Never fear. Don’t know how to skate? Not sure how it’s played? Think you’re too old? Think you’re too fat? Think you’re too small? Shut up and skate.

What you’ll need (besides perseverance, determination and a desire to kick ass):

• Quad Skates (Derby or Speed Style preferred, though I have known some trained skaters to bust artistic skates).

 Right now the standard in novice boot is the R3. You can get them for a hundred bucks, ($75 if you’ve got our league discount code with Rocky Mountain Skates- shout out Vallie Houston!) and they seem to serve everyone well as a beginner skate.

 A good alternative and comparable skate to the R3 is the Dash, and I personally think they look really nifty.

I started on Carreras, which I wore for a good 3 years of my derby career. I skated my 47 point game in those Carreras. They fit like my favorite sneaks and from experience, I would recommend them to any skater. I bought them for $115 in 2005, I’m not sure what the going rate for them is now.

In Spring 2010 I retired my Carreras for a new zippy pair of Riedell Wickeds. They are my new love, but I <3 my Carreras 4eva.
 • Helmet

I’d like to state that you should buy and use whatever you have and can afford when starting out. The skates alone are enough of an expense to shoulder the cost of. That said, the first helmet I ever bought was a cheap piece of crap. Don’t get one. It was a $15 K2 helmet and the protective inside came dislodged from the hard plastic outer shell pretty quick, (=useless).

My second helmet was a Pro-Tec that I believe I bought for about $30. I loved that helmet and it served me well, but I retired it when I joined the Undead Bettys.

Then I bought the Triple 8 Brain Saver, and it is by far the best helmet I have had. (And it better be at forty bucks). If yours is sized properly, your head will be perfectly cushioned. I had to include a picture of the inside padding, because it is far superior than any other helmet I’ve had. 

In addition, the fabric is great quality and does not retain sweat or stink that much.

• Knee & Elbow Pads

Again, I really think you can use whatever you are most comfortable with, (and can afford in the beginning) as long as it is regulation. I skated for years with children’s pads that I got in a 3-pack for $20 from Costco. I will also admit however that those Costco knee pads really provided no protection whatsoever. (See the picture at the top of my blog, I’m wearing them). 

If you have the money to invest in quality pads, I recommend Triple 8’s, TSG’s or 187’s. (All are available also with our 25% discount at Rocky Mountain Skates). I personally use Triple 8 knee and elbow pads, and honestly here is why I bought them: when asking my team at the time what I should get, one skater explained to me that her Triple 8’s wrap around the leg, (rather than having to be slid up the leg, like socks or a knee brace)- meaning- you can put them on and take them off while your skates are on. That alone sold me. However, some skaters prefer the immobility that the slide-up-the-leg type provide. Those knee pads do tend to stay in place a bit better. The choice is yours, they are all great pads, (with the exception of the fact that they seem to smell and retain moisture WAY more than what seems to be acceptable for athletic gear, -I refer to this in my Wrist Guards Blog).

• Wrist Guards and a Mouth Guard

I have a lot of opinions on wrist guards. My best summary is that I do not think what skaters need is offered on the market right now. Unfortunately, I cannot in good conscience recommend anything to you for wrist protection besides the superior style of my Ultra Wheels wrist guards, and say, Pia Mess’ Bones guards- however both of which are children’s wrist guards. (I got mine at Costco, Pia said she got hers in the children’s section of a sporting goods store). You can read an in-depth explanation of my opinion regarding wrist protection here.  

In terms of mouth guards- go with what works for you. I bought mine for ten bucks at Sports Chalet.
(and it does look like this->)

• I recommend also getting toe caps to protect the front of your skates. (My product recommendation can be found here).

• If you want some extra protection for yourself in addition to simply stockings, you can buy something similar to football pants- but for derby girls. The brand I have seen are AzzPadz but there are lots out there. (not required of course, but good for those Twiggy types). AzzPadz Website

  (Not my ass, by the way).

You can read fellow roller girl Leah Botomi of the Hellcat Harlots’ review of BumPads here.

Desolation Angel talks about the importance of lower body padding here:

And if you’re still not convinced it’s serious, read the story of one of the bravest roller girls: Tequila Mockingbird.

The Commissioner himself also chimed in on this issue stating: “[butt pads] should be a requirement.  We had trouble with the women skaters who wanted to remove it from their tights as they thought it was not ‘attractive’ but when we started telling them they couldn't skate without them, the objections ended.  Our orthopedic surgeon and team physician made us require them.”

Now that you're all geared up you're ready to play. I used to try to explain how to play roller derby myself to people, but I actually found a really well made and entertaining video on the basic rules. I will let the video do the explaining and only tell you my favorite part: roller derby is both a defensive and offensive game, all at the same time. Now watch this short video!


Lastly, be prepared to like women again. If you’re the type of woman who is leery of relationships with other women, brace yourself- you will be letting your guard down and meeting some amazing personalities. Trust me! These women were drawn to this sport for many of the same reasons you were. You have more in common than not. Embrace it. Maybe you will even find a derby wife. (Read about what those are here).

And just in case you’re seeing someone, here are some tips from fellow roller girl Joan of Dark to help your significant other survive your newfound addiction hobby.
-My personal favorite is #13, I can totally relate: “It's not a good idea to let her drive if she's just been skating. She will see the car as one giant roller skate, and every other driver as the opposing team.”

So there you have it. Just some of the things you will need to know to get started and get excited. As an ambassador of Roller Derby I hope that I gave you the information you were looking for and that you choose to embrace and nourish your inner roller girl. Now go forth and skate.

Have a Derby Day,


  1. I forgot to say, don't forget to look forward to losing weight and staying fit through a fun avenue. Roller Derby does wonders for your body, and you won't even notice you're doing work because it is so darn fun!

  2. I'm kind of suprised more teams dont have newbie fundraisers to help the new girls earn some cash for their gear. It seems like it be a good way to promote the team and get some bonding in.

  3. I agree whole heartedly Token Ethnic

  4. R3s ship with riveted on (not fun if they break) nylon plates and wheels that are practically useless for skating. So those $99 skates (or $75, which I think ya just violated MAP by mentioning) actually cost $159 plus extra shipping if you buy decent $60 wheels. Did I mention that the boots are vinyl?

    For about the same price, you can get Sure-Grip's Rebel/Probe. Leather boots (uppers, anyways), Probe plates (decent sturdy nylon DA10 plate) and Fugitives (the wheels you'd probably upgrade your R3s to) for a MAP of $158. Available some places for less as well, if you ask them.

    An even better newbie skate is Sure-Grip's Rebel/Invader. $200 MAP for a leather boot, aluminum DA45 (way more agile than any DA10 plate the other package skates come with), Qube Juice bearings (S-G's version of Bones Reds with labyrinth seals) and Fugitives.

    Some skaters pay 1.5 this just for plates that can't turn on a dime like these do. Once the boots are beat you can swap the Invader plates to whatever boots you want.