WE BE JAMMIN’ (AND BLOCKIN’) in Astoria
Their first public derby bout, The Prohibitchin’ Party vs The Tease Party… set for August 18
“Hurricane”, belts out the resonant voice of Head Coach, Rusty House, and the slender vessel of Robyn Koustik, skate name, “Hurricane Ka-Ream-Ya,” pulls ahead of the pack, covered in pads, tights, and helmet, like a ballistic bobble head doll. She laps around the track, and attacks the other skaters with menacing intensity to progress through the mob of ladies on wheels, lacing their bodies together to prevent her advancement; she knocks, she swoops, she wriggles her way through the intimidating lot. There is so much action and strategy to get around the track, the skaters have to be mentally engaged without floundering on the basic skating skills set required to participate in roller derby.
The Shanghaied Roller Dolls set out on this skating odyssey about a year ago, after the suggestion of a derby league was tossed out on Facebook. A few initial meetings, organizational gatherings, and a contact with the Clatsop County Fairgrounds, all lead to the Fall 2011 formation of a budding roller derby recreational team, Shanghaied Roller Dolls. Practice began at the fairgrounds, which have been generously made available, when not otherwise engaged, since actual practice began in October 2011. One of the original founding, dread-locked members, Tara Allen, skate name “Kiss Me Dreadly,” recalls that early on it was apparent an experienced coach was needed. As a result of going to The Daily Astorian to announce the new derby team formation, and the solicitation of skaters, referees, and coaches (an extensive list of volunteers is required to help the team with everything from selling tickets to keeping track of skater points and penalties) the team found its first coach, Walt Sabe. An experienced flat track skater from “a totally distant past,” Walt came to the team to teach basic skating and equipment maintenance skills. At age 69, he comes to every practice and dons his skates, operating as an assistant coach to Rusty, and the skate coach.
“The minimum skills is the first plateau, they’ve got about six plateaus above that, (he laughs) part of it is learning the practice jams… a major plateau is learning how to think when they’re doing the practice jams,” says Walt.
Walt has been a tremendous resource to the team, as well as the help of established derby teams like Portland’s Rose City Rollers, and the now defunct Shadow City Rollers of Longview, Washington, which connected the Dolls to Bench Coach, Amanda Farmer, skate name “Scars Volta.” Completing the coaching team is the fourth coach for fitness training, Coach McBruiser, Orly Ben Jacobs, an active duty Coast Guard Member. Head Coach House not only appreciates having his coaches, but the huge advantage of the proximity of the one of the largest Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) member leagues, The Rose City Rollers, who have assisted The Dolls with numerous resources, significantly guest referees.
Tara remembers starting with her first pair of skates, a $20 pair of Chicago skates, a tall, leather, lace-up skate that had been rented out in Seaside, when people used to skate along the promenade. It was something to start with, but that style of skate really is not ideal for roller derby.
“You need to able to squat down and bank your feet”, says Julie House, skate name “Petulant Frenzy,” she adds, “If you are going to put any money into derby, the first thing you should buy is the best padding you can!”
With that comment, Tara pulls up her pant leg, and reveals a large, bruised patch on her knee. The conversation turns to bruises, injuries, and equipment. Coach House admits this is inevitable when you bring derby women together. Among the investment of time, money, sweat, and tears, what makes this all-volunteer organization of women skaters, ranging in size and in age from early 20s to 40s, persevere? The answers are as varied as the team members, themselves; exercise, dramatic flare, adrenaline rush, me-time, spiritual and emotional victory, competition.
Coach House, skate name “Spicy Tuna Roll,” adds “These women (who participate in derby) are not like anyone else. It’s one of the things that keep myself and the other coaches coming back, and putting in the time, and going to the clinics, and doing the research, because these women are amazing, smart, and competitive!”
The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association is the international governing body for the sport of women’s flat track roller derby and a membership organization for leagues to collaborate and network. The WFTDA sets standards for rules, seasons, and safety, and determines guidelines for the national and international athletic competitions of member leagues. There are currently 156 WFTDA member leagues and 58 leagues in the WFTDA Apprentice program. Shanghaied Roller Dolls are currently processing their paperwork with the WFTDA to be an official “Apprentice League” Member. The first bout with another derby team, The Slaughter County Roller Vixens from Bremerton, Washington, is slated for September 15th. The next FRESH MEAT, an endearing term for new recruits training, begins Sunday, August 26th. For more information, visit www.shanghaiedrollerdolls.com, or check them out on Facebook at Shanghaied Roller Dolls Fans.
Sunday • August 19
Be sure to catch the Inaugural Brawl! on Sunday, August 19th at 5pm at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds, where two teams, ‘The Prohibitchin’ Party’ and ‘The Tease Party’, both, comprised of Shanghaied Roller Dolls, will face off in their first public derby bout. Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com, or at the door for $10 (Ages 10 and under are free.). Come out and support these amazing ladies and badass mothers (Most of them actually are.) on wheels!