I’ve been admiring, albeit from afar, the graceful but violent girl-sport that is Roller Derby for a few years now. Tatty Devine made me sit up and notice with their line of collaborative jewelry with the London Rollergirls, then a friend spent £200 on skates (we all thought she was a bit mad) and then Drew Barrymore’s rollerderby directoral debut “Whip It” hit the screens.
It felt like a sport I really could get into, especially as it seems to be something that inspires strength and female camaraderie among its international ranks. Since then I’ve been obsessively Googling tips and tricks for beginners, trying to find the best value budget kit, watching YouTube videos of the superstars of the WFTDA [Women's Flat Track Derby Association] league in the States and going to several local bouts to see some real girls in action. I’ve dreamt about doing it for what feels like an age . . .but I’m not sporty. I’ve never been. How the hell would I manage this?
I had a brief phase of quad skating when I was growing up. My residing memories include gravel grazes, showing off some serious bruises at school and sliding around on our lino kitchen floor – much to my mother’s disapproval.
But two weeks ago I bit the bullet – I felt after all my talk of becoming a roller girl, it was time to buy some skates. On the recommendation of many at a similar level I trekked to the outskirts of North London to buy my kit. Southgate’s Skate Attack is a family-run business and one of the only places in London to try your kit out before buying – but perhaps most importantly, one of the shop’s employees is a founding member of the London Rockin’ Rollers. I probably spent more than an hour trying on pads, wrist guards, helmets and skates – but the personal recommendation of a certified roller girl sealed the deal and I was finally kitted out.
Knowing practicing on my own would be a struggle and easy to evade, much like those trips to the gym I always promise myself, I joined an online group of beginners – all starting as ‘fresh meat’ in the London Rollergirls Rec League. I signed up to the waiting list, thinking I would have a leisurely three months before training began. How unlikely then, that I was accepted the very next day.
Freaking out a little, I paid over the odds to visit a couple of roller discos in the hope of regaining my 11-year-old skating legs but unsurprisingly, these aren’t the best places to practice your ‘Derby style. Everyone drunkenly whizzed around us in leg warmers and sunglasses – we must have looked freakish padded up to the nines and desperately trying to stand up-we were hardly going to pull off any ‘moves’ this time.
I fell and fell again, spending the next few days at work struggling to sit down in my thinly cushioned office chair. This Saturday I start my 12-week training session with the London Rollergirls – I’m told there will be thrills, spills and muscle ache – safe to say I’m scared.
Next time – Training, training and more training, I feel the need for adequate bum protection and earn my ‘Drinks Monitor’ merit badge.
I’ve come a long way since this photo was taken!