Top derby girls roll through Oakland at weekend tournament
on August 15, 2011
This weekend, the Bay Area Derby Girls hosted The Golden Bowl, a women’s flat track roller derby competition at the Oakland Convention Center. During the round robin style tournament, all-star teams from four states faced off for three days of skating mayhem and bruising competition.
The Bay Area’s squad, the 2011 All Stars, was itself made up of representatives of four local teams: the Oakland Outlaws, Richmond Wrecking Belles, San Francisco ShEvil Dead and Berkeley Resistance. Together they took on the Texecutioners, Detroit Skate & Destroy, and Chicago’s Windy City Rollers.
More than 3,000 people showed up over the weekend to watch the tournament in downtown Oakland, and the center was jammed with players clad in spandex and skates. “This is the best strategy, the best skating skills, the highest level of derby that’s ever been in the bay,” said T. Wrecks, a Bay Area Derby Girl and one of the organizers of the event. (Like most derby girls, Wrecks only goes by a punny nom de skate.)
Roller derby is a full-contact sport in which two teams, each with five players on the track at a time, skate around a track at high speed. Points are scored when players known as “jammers” pass the opposing team’s players, but other players called “blockers” try to prevent them from getting by. That’s why the required gear includes a helmet, mouthguard, elbow and knee pads, wrist guards and quad rollerskates. (You can read more about the rules of roller derby here.)
The weekend tournament audience watched scrums of competitors bump, block and trip their way around a blue track from metal chairs and bleachers. Most of the crowd was made of women dressed in jeans and t-shirts—more than a few with trucker hats and tattoos—but there were also families, men and kids, including a lot of little girls sitting on the floor close to the action. “It’s really cool,” Wrecks said of the abundance of young girls in the crowd. “It’s empowering and you can tell they get excited about it.”
Members of the visiting teams said they were excited to be there, too. A Windy City Rollers player who goes by the monicker Sargentina said she was happy to face the top competition from around the country. “I hope they do this tournament every year,” she said. “What a great group of teams to play, and a great place to be able to come tour.”
Vendors selling T-shirts, jewelry, skates, barbecue and beer lined the convention center’s walls, and in their own corner, the Derby Girls operated a raffle booth, selling $1 tickets to win prizes like a Fringe Fitness hula-hoop session and a gift card from Oakbay Chiropractic. The money raised will be used to replenish the league’s coffers after a significant amount of its money was stolen in an armed robbery in San Francisco July 9 after an event earlier that evening at the Richmond Convention Center.
Wrecks said the stolen money was supposed to be used to help put on The Golden Bowl, but the league received donations from people in the area and teams around the country right away, which allowed it to still put on the tournament. “It’s really unfortunate what happened, but the silver lining with that is we really felt the love from the community in general,” Wrecks said. “So many people from Oakland and San Francisco, and local businesses, stepped up.”
To further recoup its losses, the Bay Area Derby Girls will host a fundraiser on Friday, August 19 at Club 6 in San Francisco. A mini skate park will be set up inside, and there will be games and a raffle. The group will also be selling beer at the Oakland Pride Festival on September 4. “As hard as it is to come back from a robbery, this kind of community support makes you feel like you can do it,” said a player who goes by Cutya, who is the head of fundraising for the Bay Area team. “Or else you would feel completely overwhelmed.”
The Bay Area team won all three of its matches over the weekend, defeating Chicago 116-49 on Friday, Austin 185-59 on Saturday and Detroit 104-59 on Sunday. Chicago beat Austin, 132-121, in Sunday’s other bout. But there was no official tournament victor; each team’s wins or losses go towards their record for the year.
After Sunday’s final bout was over, members of the Bay Area teams broke down the rink and helped clean up the convention center, while some of the visitors went out to explore the town. Sargentina said she and some of her teammates had plans to do some sightseeing after a weekend inside focused on roller derby. “I think we’re probably going to get some tattoos tomorrow and just walk around,” she said.
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