The first time I attended a roller derby game at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
where the Santa Cruz Derby Girls
skate, I was having a rare evening out sans kids. True to most date nights when you can't stop talking about the kids, I couldn't stop thinking, "My kids would LOVE this!"
The excitement in the air, the lights and loud music, the fast skating…perfect ingredients for a unique family outing!
Since then, I've learned more about the rules and strategies that make roller derby a national sport and one that is played around the world, including Canada, Germany, Mexico, and Iceland. The Santa Cruz Derby Girls is one of the 133 leagues that comprise WFTDA - the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association
- the international governing body of women’s flat track roller derby. WFTDA offers a way for the leagues to collaborate and network. The organization develops and maintains the standardized rules for roller derby, in use by WFTDA member and non-member leagues internationally. The WFTDA also serves as the sanctioning body for flat track roller derby games, hosts regional and national tournaments, sets safety standards, provides roller derby insurance to athletes and leagues, and serves as a networking venue for flat track roller derby leagues to share resources and get advice.
Not to play favorites, but seeing as I'm a professional Polynesian dancer, I can't help but love the derby name chosen by Alayna Nathe a.k.a. "Polly KneesYa"
. I recently chatted with Alayna, a former professional surfer and mother of two who skates for the Boardwalk Bombshells
, one of three teams that skates for the Santa Cruz Derby Girls' league. There is also a junior derby league for skaters under the age of 18 called the Santa Cruz Derby Groms.
CC: Can you tell me more about the women who've joined the Santa Cruz Derby Girls?
AN: Roller derby is a big time commitment, so our teams are made up of dedicated women. Members’ ages range from 18 to almost 50. We are lawyers, librarians, nurses, and bookkeepers to name a few. About 40 percent of the league is made up of moms who bring their kids and families to home bouts. One of our main goals is to have tons of kids and parents at our games and for everyone to feel welcome.
CC: What are some common misconceptions about roller derby that you'd like to clear up?
AN: Anybody over 40 remembers when roller derby was staged like professional wrestling. People get nostalgic about having watched it on TV with their grandparents. Modern roller derby has since evolved into a legit, full-contact women's sport, and one of the quickest growing sports in the country. The misconception is that it's staged, campy, and just for entertainment, but more and more tried-and-true athletes are coming out of the woodwork and upping the ante on the overall fitness, endurance, and skating skills necessary to compete.
CC: Besides the obvious of living and playing in a gorgeous destination, what's special about roller derby in Santa Cruz?
AN: First of all, the Santa Cruz fans are amazing! We have a great fan base and play to a sold-out house every time. Around town, there's even a bit of local celebrity status on a smaller scale, especially during the season. It's always fun to have supportive fans recognize us in public. Also, because we're a family-friendly league, we get a lot of kids waiting to meet us after a game to sign their posters and bout programs. They see us as heroes and it's a huge honor to have that kind of impact on youth, especially seeing the young girls in awe of female athletes.
CC: How do the Santa Cruz Derby Girls engage with the local community?
AN: Our Community First committee helps us find ways to show community support and outreach. Every home game bout features a different local non-profit organization that receives a portion of our proceeds. We also do things the community probably doesn't realize, for example, during the holidays we participated in the Adopt-A-Family program and sponsored a really large family. We have a strong belief in giving back to the community.
Indeed, I'm always excited to see the Santa Cruz Derby Girls make an appearance, and I've been known to hold up a sign and cheer them on in our Downtown Santa Cruz Holiday Parade.
If you've always been curious about roller derby, make a point to attend a game this season. Home games at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium this season run through October 27, 2012. Click here for a complete Santa Cruz Derby Girls schedule!