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Wrecking Belles: Rolling through Richmond one jam at a time

on November 5, 2010

This is not your grandma’s roller derby.

Last Saturday night, hundreds of fans, some dressed in Halloween costumes, packed Craneway Pavilion for the season-ending matchup between the Richmond Wrecking Belles and the San Francisco ShEvil Dead.

One fan came wrapped up in a Twister mat. Bugs with pom pom antennae walked about the room. And devils of all shapes and sizes filled the seats, some armed with signs professing allegiance to the players and teams.

The Bay Area Derby (B.A.D.) league was founded in 2004, with Richmond joining the fray in 2006. It is a skater-run league made up of three city teams—the Richmond Wrecking Belles, The San Francisco ShEvil Dead, and the Oakland Outlaws—and an all-star team. This is the first year that the matches have been held at Craneway.

On the track, women in skates, pads, and various states of makeup skated in circles, warming up for the night. The Wrecking Belles’ Lusty Malice glided backward. Talulah “T.” Wrecks and Luda Kris practiced their moves, pushing and shoving one another. La Femme Nikilla raced around the inner track, zig-zagging between other skaters.

“I’m a little nervous but definitely excited. It’s gonna be awesome, we’re gonna kill ‘em,” said T. Wrecks. “We’re just trying to maintain our dominance because we never really lose.”

In the minutes before the main bout, the team stretched and sang a rousing round of the alphabet. Then one of the two captains, Demanda Riot, stomped her skates three times and yelled, “let’s do it!”

Every summer the league brings in new skaters—the veterans refer to as ‘rinkidinks’—for a bootcamp/training session. After they complete the training, they can try out for the league.

“Pretty much no one starts with skating knowledge,” said Chantilly Mace. “Most of us picked up a pair of skates and came out with our first lesson of stopping and falling.”

There’s an international registry of roller derby names, so no two players can have the same one.

At Saturday’s match, first on the track were Angel Maker, Chrashleen, Psychoserapissed, Jirsa, and Tanya HardON, the jammer.

The game progressed in a flurry of yellow and black as the players skated around the track, a blur of strategically planned zigs and zags, blocks and bashes.

With 11:30 left in the first period, the score was 23-22, Wrecking Belles. Tanya Hardon came off the track after a rough jam. “It never stops hurting,” she said. “Maybe when you’re sitting on the bench like I am now, but when I stand it comes back.”

A man dressed as Popeye, with “biceps” made of stuffed pantyhose sat by the edge of the track. The man, firefighter Kailin Waterman, has been with the league as a medic since the beginning of the season. “It’s mostly just ice packs and ibuprofen,” he said.

But La Femme Nikilla, who works as a teacher when she’s not in the ring, said her worst injury was a concussion that left her forehead swollen so badly that her boyfriend called her a “Klingon.”

While today’s roller derby is physical and full of body checks, hard falls and plenty of action, hitting, kicking, elbowing, punching and grabbing are not allowed.

“It’s one of the few games where you’re playing simultaneous offense and defense," said Chantilly Mace. "It’s also because it’s a relatively new sport it’s constantly evolving” (photo by Anne Brice)

Back in the game, the Wrecking Belles ratcheted up the intensity and finished the period 48-24. At the halftime break the girls rolled over to their dressing area, and huddled to talk, munching on bananas and avocados.

“Let’s work another thirty f***’in minutes out there, guys,” said Demanda Riot. “And then—and then we party!”

Chantilly Mace says someone can be a roller derby player, “If you’re willing to go out there on the track to engage in that kind of heavy hitting” (photo by Becca Friedman)

Meanwhile, announcers Chesty Gillespie and Jane Hammer entertained the crowd. “Who’s here to support Richmond?” asked Gillespie. The crowd responded with a burst of applause. “Who knew?” she said. “Roller derby in Richmond!”

“Richmond has great fans. We love the people in the community coming out to root for us,” said Chantilly Mace.

The second period started with Tanya HardON jamming hard, bringing the Wrecking Belles’ score to 51, as the ShEvil Dead scored three points as well.

Jirsa, #22, stretches before the game. "A lot of people are drawn to the sport because of the mystery around it, but it takes an incredible amount of physical strength and athleticism,” said Chantilly Mace (photo by Becca Friedman)

With eight minutes remaining, the refs called Psychoserapissed into the penalty box—she’d earned more than three minor penalties—with a tear up the seam of her uniform. Chantilly Mace, bench-coaching for the night, ran to grab her a safety pin, and someone handed her an elastic belt to keep the top in place.

With 5:53 left in the game, the score was 76-80, as the ShEvil Dead pulled into the lead. “They came back with a lot of fire,” said Angel Maker. “They figured out our strategy.”

With 37 seconds left, the Wrecking Belles’ jammer found herself in the penalty box, making it impossible for the team to score any more points. Final score: 78-91. Visibly upset, the Wrecking Belles came together for a team hug.

"I still get on the line and my legs shake," said La Femme Nikilla. "I don't know if it's nerves" (photo by Anne Brice)

After both teams lined up for high fives, the ShEvil Dead took a victory lap, and the fans high fived the players, The Wrecking Belles put their hands together and shouted a giant, “woo!” to end the season.

La Femme Nikilla skated over to the dressing area with a beer in hand. “It tastes better because you feel like you earned it, “ she said. But teammate Lusty Malice countered, saying that the beer tastes worse after a loss.

The new players warm up for their preview match. Angel Maker says she calls the new players, “Bambi on ice,” for the way some of them freeze under the pressure of a live audience (photo by Becca Friedman)

And though they ended the season on a down note, seven of the Wrecking Belles will play on a B.A.D. Girls All-star team at nationals in Chicago from November 5-7.

20101105_roller_derby | To get a feel for the game, check out this video | by Tyler Orsburn
Each game is made of up two periods, and each period is made up of jams. In each jam, the team sends five players onto the track: three blockers, one pivot, and one jammer.

The jammers (star helmets) score points by passing players on the opposing team. Each lap the jammer completes brings in another point. Meanwhile, the pivots (striped helmets) set the pace for the pack and is the last line of defense, and the blockers (solid helmets) block the opposing team’s jammer and help their own jammer get through the pack.| How does a team score?|

|The 7 Wrecking Belles on the all-star team:|Watch it live on Derby News Network
|Can’t make it to nationals?|The league is always interested in volunteers. To get started, fill out the volunteer form HERE! | Want to be involved but not interested in skating?|To find out more about the league, tryouts, bouts, etc., you can sign up for the B.A.D. newsletter HERE
|Want to get involved?| Derby champs roll under the radar
| Related article|

| Still want more information?|
| Mouse over a spot to learn more about the uniform


  1. laurel on November 6, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Very good article, Roller Derby is back, which I could do it too. thanks for all the insight

  2. Colleen Hayes on November 6, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Enjoyed the article very much.

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