DEL MAR — Instead of thundering around a banked track Sept. 26, the San Diego Rollers and Santa Cruz Derby Dolls skated, clashed and grappled in the cavernous Wyland Center Hall. The skaters were constantly compensating for the flat floor they were forced to skate on, but to their credit, the action was still packed with the sort of shoving and tumbles the sport is known for.
Roller derby is played with two opposing teams of five skaters on the track. A designated “jammer” on each team attempts to skate past all their adversaries and start lapping the opposing team, earning a point per person a skater passes. And the emphasis is on the word “earn,” as all of the players crashed hard on the concrete floor several times over the course of the game. Attempting to squeeze through the larger group of athletes while on skates is like trying to jump through a meat grinder. The game had to be paused twice on account of more serious collisions.
The event had all the hallmarks of an underground scene: a rented out hall, minimal bleachers, volunteer referees and rabidly enthusiastic fans. Many in attendance arrived with homemade signs and jerseys for their favorite team members, while another group of roller derby fans poured out of a party bus that left from North Park. People pressed close around the outside boundary of the track, screaming support, banging pots and pans and desperately trying to grab a clear picture of their team in action.
While decidedly amateur, the people who help run the event have their eyes on a bigger spectacle. “We’re trying to raise money for a banked track so that next season all of our bouts can be on it,” said Chrissy Laughlin, one of the event’s promoters. “It’ll cost $26,000. The Del Mar Fairgrounds will store it for us. We hope to host more games here with it. We have $8,000 so far.”
The players are just as dedicated.
“There’s very few opportunities for women to play team sports outside of high school and college,” said Kelley “Atom Eve” Boston, from the home team. “There’s even fewer opportunities for women to play contact sports. I think it’s really great to see a lot of women who are in their 20s and 30s discover it for their first time and find they’re athletes.”
“It’s a feeling of love you don’t get from anywhere else,” teammate Lila “Lilamonster” Troncone added.
San Diego skated away with the win as the final score was 133 to 103.