Dreamer

10/05/16 - The diary of a roller derby Dreamer

I don’t remember being more excited during Christmas than seeing a pair of red roller skates under the Christmas tree. This was in the late 80s, I was 7 or 8, and they were made of iron and plastic. They were so heavy and chunky, but I fell in love! Every day after school I would destroy every pair of trousers and felt so proud of my bloody knees. A couple of decades later, I’m roller skating with my SFRs down the front going to Mumbles for an ice cream every time the sun brightened up the sky. Those eight wheels were the best medicine for me; no matter how low I felt, roller skates made me smile. I never thought that there were other crazy people who would share this feeling.

So, why did I join roller derby? I hate to admit it, but it was simply because I wanted to find a place to roller skate indoors and Swansea City Roller Derby had a beginners’ intake just 3 minutes away from my house. Let me tell you few things about me:

1. I never blended in big groups. See, I saw myself as a solitary creature who was a little too awkward, a little too geeky, a little too weird to blend in a team. It’s not that I wasn’t forced to try some team sports during my school days; and, yes, I was always the last person to be picked.

2. I don’t have an athletic body. I’m size 14, curvy with lots of body insecurities. My only hobby is roller skating. I don’t like sweating on a treadmill while looking like a hamster, I don’t like running in cold weather (and my knees agree with me) and have tried different fitness classes but never felt motivated enough to keep at it.

3. I don’t have time. I work full time. I’ve got a partner and a 5 year old boy, who is awesome but also diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. In other words, I am busy, stressed and, frankly, I find it’s even hard to arrange to go for a glass of wine with a friend.

4. I feel intimidated by roller derby! These girls look fearsome! Have you seen their awesome tattoos, hairstyles, multi-colour leggings and radical quad skates? In fact, not only do they look fearsome, they are fearsome! Have seen any footage of roller derby on YouTube?

5. I am too old. I’m 34. I’m so old that I use anti-ageing cream. I’m so old that I’ve got three pairs of Spanx. I’m so old that when bouncers ask for my I.D., they only do it for a laugh. I’m so old, that I have to Google what ‘Netflix and chill’ means.

6. Frankly, the thought of meeting new people slightly terrifies me. It’s not that I’m agoraphobic, but it’s a bunch of new people who would skate better than me, will be younger than me, more awesome than me and a little cooler (do you still say ‘cool’ or should I say ‘rad’ or ‘sick’?)

Well, the thing is that I just gave it a go. That’s all. I arrived there wearing my black leggings and a black top. The girls were so friendly and all the beginners looked equally lost. The skates and protective equipment stunk and we laughed about it, and then…it happened. We started skating around the track and then, this other thing happened: everyone was smiling.

Everyone was smiling, laughing, and helping each other to stay vertical. Everyone was so encouraging, chatting and then it all begun…knee stops, plough stops, laterals. I had no idea what I was doing and neither did the majority of us! I was sweating and couldn’t breathe! I hadn’t exercised for ages! However, everyone was so positive: ‘your stance is awesome!’, ‘keep it up!’, ‘look at your laterals! They are amazing!’

There’s a minimum skills drill that every roller derby player needs to pass. It’s called ’27 laps in 5 minutes’. Pretty much, they time you while you skate around the track for 5 minutes and hopefully, you’ve skated 27 laps. Well, the first time, I didn’t care whether I   did 27 or even 17. I still hadn’t figured out that I wanted to be a roller derby player, remember? This was all about finding a place close to home whereby I could skate indoors, and possibly, pick up a skill or two.

These 5 minutes were glorious! Five minutes of singing one of my favourite songs in my head. Five minutes of feeling the air brushing my hair. Five minutes of not caring about anything else but skating around the track. Five minutes of people motivating and encouraging me to keep going no matter what… Am I getting too poetic? It’s only because I fell in love! I fell in love with the roller derby community! I fell in love with the camaraderie, the supportiveness, the business of it… and there was something that’s hard to explain in words.

 

I thought that roller skating was a solitary enjoyment. I thought it was me and my eight wheels. It can be solitary, if you wish it to be, but it’s also a feeling that you can share with other women (and men) and if you share it, it becomes so much more. It becomes an identity.

          

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All photos courtesy of: Stine Kiran