Today, March 28th, two roller derby teams will compete in Herzhöllin, Seltjarnarnes: The Icelandic Ragnarök and the Norweigian Oslo Tiger City Beasts. It’s going to be fast. It’s going to be brutal. There will be girls on wheels!
Roller derby is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of team sports. But according to various online articles it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world (some say it’s popularity is a result from the 2009 hit movie Whip It starring Ellen Page). Curiously enough it’s also female dominated. The biggest league in the world is called WFTDA or Women’s Flat Track Derby Association where no men are allowed. And yet it’s hard-core, brutal, fast, loud, exciting and…apparently very populated by lesbians. There are even exclusive lesbians only groups (such as Vagine Regime).
Iceland only has one roller derby team, Ragnarök, and it’s fairly new; founded in 2011. The Icelandic team mainly consists of heterosexual girls; but with my very accurate gaydar, I managed to find two lesbians from the team to spill the beans. Rakel Snorradóttir and Anita Rübberdt (who, during practices, only answer to the names Rushkva and Anita BReAKE) were happy to answer my questions.
First of all is Roller Derby really…a lesbian thing?
Anita BReAKE: “Yes. It’s true.”
Simple as that!
Rushkva: “One coach that came for a visit told us that almost 90% of the roller derby practitioners were queer. In Iceland we’re a minority though.”
Anita BReAKE: “Derby has always been a very gay-friendly sport. Everyone’s welcome, no matter your physical shape or sexual orientation. It really doesn’t matter if you’re big or small, fast or slow, brutal or sensitive … or even sporty.”
Rushkva: “I used to really hate sports.”
Anita BReAKE: “Exactly! And a diverse team is definitely a better team.”
Rushkva: “Definitely. We need fast girls, strong girls, short and big…name it. A mixed and molded team for the win.”
Sounds not only gay-friendly but simply people-friendly overall.
We discuss the sport for a while, Rushkva draws it up on a whiteboard and uses complicated slang to simplify things for me. I don’t really get it, but it seems like each team has a jammer and a pivot and then some blockers. And then they roll, pass people and score points. It sounded a bit like quidditch. Minus the flying broomsticks, plus roller skates.
Here’s some lingo to paint a picture of the roller derby game:
Bridging: blockers move ahead of the main pack by up to 10 feet to stretch out the pack. This also stretches out the engagement zone, allow their team members to continue hindering the opposition jammer.
The Whip: A blocker or pivot grasps her jammer’s hand and swings her forward, thus transferring some of her speed and momentum to the jammer.
Since the sport is super complicated it’s only fitting that they need seven judges and fifteen NSO’s (Non-Skating Officials), just to keep things intact.
“We need fast girls, strong girls, short and big…name it. A mixed and molded team for the win.”
One very important thing to every derby-player is thei nickname, the girls also tell me. It’s usually witty and probably wouldn’t fly through at a meeting with the Icelandic Name Committee. But it seems like the names give ring to an alter-ego or even their true selves. But how do they come up with those names?
Anita BReAKE: “The names find us.”
Of course they do. Silly me.
Rushkva: “It’s a bit of an alter-ego thing, but still the name is connected to the personality. Some people take a very long time to find their name.”
Sounds a bit like coming out of the closet.
Ellen Page’s character in Whip It got the name Babe Ruthless (pun: Babe Ruth, baseball player) and many names seem to be a celebrity’s name, with a witty (and preferably brutal) twist. Or if you can make a pun out of your own name. Examples from the Icelandic team:
Runa Way (Real name: Eyrún)
Lexía de Trix (Alex)
Grim Creeper (Alexandra), to name a few.
The team is currently doing a member-a-day introduction on their Facebook page. Highly recommended.
Also highly recommended: The game today. The doors will open at 2:30pm, the game will be explained on a screen (I really advise against missing this) at 3pm, following an introduction of both teams and then it’s show time!
Oslo will livetweet and snap the game, for those who are interested, follow @oslorollerderby. Iceland probably will do the same, although not advertised so you should definitely follow @rollerderbyiceland as well.