I saw the most exciting roller derby bouts of my life (my life, people!!!) at the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) Championships in Saint Paul, Minnesota last weekend.
But this post isn’t (entirely) about world class athletes on the track or the positively electric atmosphere in the Roy Wilkins Auditorium as we witnessed history. This post is a love letter to roller derby fans.
A few Angel City Derby Girls fans enjoyed premium seats.
It’s for all of us derby nerds who screamed our faces off for our favorite skaters and fiercely debated calls and strategies from the stands. It’s for the hardcore ones who got up early after a night of after parties to sit trackside. It’s for the skaters and volunteers who traveled from all over the world to bring their A game and the super fans who came along, dressed to the nines and leading the cheers.
It’s for the next generation of fangirls (and boys) clutching homemade signs and autographed programs. They are the ones who will carry this sport, this wild, amazing, inclusive family we all love so much, into the future.
Roller Derby fashion is evolving as fast as the game itself. While the uniforms on the track have changed (more sleek and sporty, fewer fishnets and kicky minis) a roller derby fan is definitely part of a particular fashion tribe.
The only rule is that there are no rules. The derby family is incredibly inclusive, tolerant and free spirited. Anything goes. In most leagues, tattoos aren’t the exception, they’re the rule. Candy colored hair and piercings are normal.
You don’t even have to wear pants.
Roller derby fashion is a lot like the attitudes of those of us that love it — colorful, DIY and not terribly concerned with what you or anyone else think about it.
The sport is extremely body-positive (it takes all kinds of physiques to play offense and defense at the same time, after all) and emphasizes health and fitness over a particular body type. Roller derby merchandise reflects the wide range of body types on the track and in the stands.
Roller derby is also fiercely LGBTQ-friendly. Lesbian, bisexual and gay athletes, officials and fans are vital to leagues all over the world. And I haven’t met a single person in any league, anywhere, who has had an issue with this fact. The roller derby community simply will not tolerate intolerance.
The tournament offered an all-gender bathroom that was open to anyone, regardless of gender identification. It happened to be near where I was sitting and it was bustling all weekend long. The people I talked to at the sinks and in the stands thought it was a great idea and seemed baffled that anyone would think it was a big deal or have an issue with the idea. Can you honestly imagine another international sporting event where fans would react this way?
But roller derby has a long history of inclusion, both at a grassroots level and as an official policy. WFTDA’s inclusion policy welcomes transgender athletes in any stage of transition with open arms. Jane McManus wrote an an excellent article about roller derby’s leadership on this issue for ESPNW.
If you’re attending a bout or a tournament, you’ll see a ton of league or team gear. Wearing your logo and derby name works better than a business card if you’re a skater, official or volunteer.
And fans love supporting their favorite (and new favorite) teams through buying merch. Oh my gosh, you guys…there is so much amazing merch. It’s dangerous.
These soccer-style scarves are my favorite new trend in fan gear. Even the Queen agrees.
I ran into Rollomite, a skater for Your Mom as he was hanging out with his teammate Twinkle Toes (yeah, it’s meant to be silly) in the vendor village. Your Mom is an elite men’s roller derby (merby) team based out of Des Moines, Iowa that won the MRDA (Men’s Roller Derby Association) championship in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
We’re both derby nerds, so we immediately started talking stats.
Since most of the people in attendance were also derby nerds, the energy in the stands was amazing, bout after bout. The crowd always lines up around the track for high fives after a bout, but this group took things to the next level.
I asked some of the Denver Roller Derby ladies if I could take a photo of their hands during high fives.
So imagine my surprise when this happened…
…I laughed so hard. It was my favorite street style photography moment of the year.
(I was going to say it was my favorite moment hands down, but I thought that might be a little much.)
We all basically lost our minds when the incredibly well-conditioned powerhouse that is Gotham Girls Roller Derby fell to the Rose City Rollers from Portland, Oregon in a championship grudge match. It was Gotham’s first loss in years.
The Rose City fans helped keep the Roy buzzing. They definitely travel well. And they had my favorite sign of the weekend. (You know the one I mean…)
This guy showed his love for the London Roller Girls in a big way…
…while the hometown team, the Minnesota RollerGirls from Saint Paul, Minnesota, had lots of superfans in attendance for their first round bout.
These ladies (mom, grandma and an aunt) were in Saint Paul to cheer on the Bay Area Derby Girls out of San Francisco.
It was Grandma’s first bout. She fit right in. I met them when they led a conga line around the track.
Cutest. Footwear. Ever.
But these babies were the accessories everybody really wanted.
Scald Eagle from Rose City actually got one. She also won tournament MVP, an absurd number of friend requests on Facebook and the hearts of roller derby fans all over the world.
So what do you think? Tell me about your experience at Champs and what you love about roller derby.
What’s your favorite team? Do you have a lucky bout day outfit? If you’ve never been to a bout, I’d love to know what you think of roller derby and the fans, as someone on the outside looking in.
Oh, and if you’re in Minnesota or North Dakota, there are still a few hours left to enter to win tickets to the next Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girls bout! The contest closes tonight at 11:59 p.m. CST, so enter here!
The winner will be announced on social media tomorrow at noon. The entry counting mechanism isn’t working correctly, but trust me, your entry will be counted.
Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File.
And no, those are not my boobs. Promise.