Roller derby bout draws hundreds of enthusiasts

This tumble illustrates why the Vixens wear protective gear over their fishnet stockings. - Denise Mandeville/Staff Photo
This tumble illustrates why the Vixens wear protective gear over their fishnet stockings.
— image credit: Denise Mandeville/Staff Photo

Brandy Love broke her leg in two places and her ankle in three during a practice skate, earning the right to claim the worst injury amongst the Slaughter County Roller Vixens.

“My leg just crumpled and my ankle snapped,” said Love, 28, lifting up her leg to demonstrate how her foot bent at such an ugly angle, her skate wheels were lying on their sides.

But even as she explained that the doctors needed steel plates and screws to put her leg back together so she could even walk again, it was obvious she longed to be on wheels instead Saturday night at Port Orchard’s Sk8town.

That’s because the rink was hosting her derby league’s first exhibition bout, something the handful of original members like Love have waited nearly a year for.

“This means so much to me,” she said, watching the women skate in slow circles to warm up. “Some of my best friends are out there.”

Another of the first hearty few, Jenyfur Ewig, said there’s a good reason why women like Love need a broken leg to drag them off the rink.

“It’s like crack,” Ewig said of roller derby, explaining that she stumbled upon the brand-new league last year while skating with her daughter.

“I knew zero about roller derby before that,” she said, rolling her hand into an egg shape to demonstrate.

After her first practice, the 40-year-old Port Orchard resident said she was covered in bruises and aching. Now, the injuries are trophies.

“When I get a big one I say, ‘Look at this one,’” she said, laughing.

Fellow Vixen Cheryl, who preferred to give only her first name, said injuries have not dissuaded her, either.

“I’ve bruised my tailbone, ribs, and have had countless road rash issues,” said the 35-year-old, explaining that despite the injuries, derby was still the “best stress relief out there.”

Another of the inaugural members, 29-year-old Port Orchard resident Aimee Durgan, said it was hard to pinpoint why she and the other Vixens were so dedicated to such a fast-paced, sometimes brutal, sport.

“It’s a hobby that takes over your soul,” Durgan said, describing her fellow derby addicts as coming from every age group, belief system and walk of life. “We have single moms, stay-at-home moms, and women who work at law firms and insurance companies; and we range from conservative to very open-minded.”

As for what attracts all the different women to the sport, Durgan said it could be anything from the fact that it requires little athletic ability or experience, to it being an opportunity to meet people and relieve stress.

“If you work 40 hours a week, you need an outlet to socialize and let some aggression out,” she said. “And nothing relieves aggression more than going around and knocking each other on our butts.”

Of course, Durgan said the derby players don’t always get along, and sometimes the aggression they feel is inspired by their teammates.

“You can’t get 50 to 60 women together without having issues,” she said, laughing. “But even if there’s women you can’t get along with, you can always admire their athletic ability, or find something else to admire. Overall, it is such a supportive environment.”

As for the crowd attracted to the bout Saturday night, it was just as diverse as the group of skaters – families with small children joined twenty-somethings and leather-vested bikers to fill the rink to the rafters and cheer the Vixens, who were divided into teams of red and purple.

Announcer Jake Metcalf summed up neatly why hundreds had come out to watch women in short shorts elbow each other on roller skaters.

“It’s the ultimate spectator sport; it’s just like NASCAR, only the tailgates are better to look at,” said Metcalf, admitting his answer was indeed a well-prepared response.

No matter why they came, Metcalf said it was safe to assume many in attendance did not know the particulars of derby, so the organizers took special care to explain the match to the crowd.

Before it started, the skaters gave a demonstration of a “jam,” the two-minute stretch of jockeying for place and points that the hourlong bout is based on.

And as for the women skating, Metcalf had his theory as to why they loved it, too.

“They get to be superheroes for the night,” he said, explaining that for a few hours, each skater can put aside her real identity and become Vixens like Brynn Reaper, Darth Maul’Her, Jenocidal and Leannderthal.

“A lot of our girls were outcasts in school,” said Durgan. “But here, we are a whole community of outsiders.”

Next month, Durgan said the league will be preparing to begin its first official season, which will include a bout each month for the next eight months.

Durgan said the Vixens are always looking for skaters “of any skill level,” and any woman over 21 who is interested can call 871-4765.

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