Monday, 19 March 2012

First Loves: Choosing Your First Pair of Skates

Rebel Probe $185 from
There comes a time when a fresh meat skater needs to move on from the gear bin (if your league has one). Choosing your first pair of skates is an important rite of passage: the first skates you purchase will be the first ones that will belong to you as they carry you around the rink, as they let you fly.There are a few key categories to consider.

Budget: Give some thought planning out your budget. Are you going to be still skating in six months? Consider how much you're willing to lay down in case derby turns out to not be your thing. If derby turned out to not be for you, would you consider $400 down the hole a waste?

At the same time, if your heart is set on derby and you've been skating for a while on loaners, you may want to invest in a boot that will give you the performance you need.

Don't forget, however, that derby is very rough on skates. Chances are that if you skate at a high level, you will need to replace these. Over time, derby can be a very expensive sport. See if your league has discounts at local shops or online stores.

Used vs New: Luckily, the difference between used and new skates can get you a better quality skate for a cheaper price. New skates are a treat, but used ones have several key benefits. Often you can get a better skate for less; skaters sell off perfectly good skates for all sorts of reasons. My first pair had been sold by a skater who found her skate size had changed after pregnancy. They got me through my first year of skating until I could afford a new pair.
Diablo Flatout $187 from

Used skates also have the benefit of being broken in, if they're leather boots. They won't be broken in for your feet in particular, but you won't have quite the same breaking-in period that a new leather boot will have. That will save you some pain, at least until you have to break in boots of your own.

The bottom line is that used skates can be great for your budget and your nascent derby career. Just be sure to try them out thoroughly; be sure before you buy.

Material and Make:  There are some key differences between vinyl and leather boots and between padded and non-padded.  Vinyl and padded boots tend to avoid the 'breaking-in' period that will cause your feet so much agony, but unlike leather, non-padded boots, they won't conform to such a contoured fit. Obviously, vinyl boots may be preferred by vegan skaters. Ultimately, a leather non-padded boot will give you a gorgeous fit, but it may not be in your budget right now.

Consider your weight when deciding between plates. Nylon plates are better for beginner lighter skates (in this case, those under 200 pounds). Heavier skaters should consider aluminum plates for better support, though you should make sure they don't make your skates feel too heavy.
Riedell 265 $325 from

Also, buy a short boot. A tall boot isn't meant for derby.

Size: Size is key. KNOW YOUR SIZE. Otherwise, you're stuck with skates that will just punish you. Learn by feel and comfort when skating, but also get sized professionally.

Ultimately, trust your gut and get advice from fellow skaters. And buy from derby-owned shops - those places will teach you more about skates than any blog post, except perhaps the Fresh Meat File from Rollergirl.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Featured League: Halifax Roller Derby Association

Copyright HRDA / Artwork by Jason Dirks

Today's featured league is the Halifax Roller Derby Association, hailing from one of Canada's most beautiful cities, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Formed in 2010, this league is relatively new but already making a splash. They played their first bout in June 2011 to a crowd of approximately 700 spectators. Proceeds from the bout went to Feed Nova Scotia, providing a great example of derby's ability to do good. That's pretty amazing progress and sure proof that derby is doing wonderfully in Canada's Atlantic provinces.

An old HRDA logo by Jessika Hepburn,
proving they've been sexy since the start
Today, the HRDA remains Halifax's only women's flat-track derby league. Featuring skaters like founding member Sarah Chaotica, The HellaGonian and former LOCO lovely Chlorine, HRDA has an All-Star / Travel Team, the Halifax Heartless and you can keep up with them through their blog, Twitter or Facebook page.

Particular notable is HRDA's blog, which features writing from their skaters. Other leagues can certainly learn from HRDA's commitment to keeping their skaters so central in the league's public presence.

Ultimately, HRDA is a league that Maritime skaters can feel proud to count among their ranks. A registered not-for-profit organization, HRDA proves that derby can be both bad-ass and benevolent. As the child of Maritimers and a long-time fan of both the province of Nova Scotia and the city of Halifax, I'm proud to see derby in such capable hands there. Long may they roll.

HRDA / Photo Credit Needed

Monday, 12 March 2012

So, You Want To Start a Roller Derby Blog...

As lovers of derby, we have a lot of ways to stay engaged with our sport. But blogging can be a special way of critically engaging with roller derby. Derby's DIY aesthetic is particularly blogging friendly. This sport is powered by human passion and blogging can be a direct way of sharing what you love, what you think, what you absolutely must say about roller derby with the world.

So, here are my top tips for starting and maintaining a derby blog.

My hypnotic type-writer compels you.

The Starting Line

1) Consider your angle. Are you a newbie? A coach? A derby widow? Your specific relation to the sport can provide a fresh angle on derby and will likely draw readers in your position or curious about it to your blog.

2) Be prepared. Get ready with a list of possible topics, ranging from personal essays to bout reviews to possible interview subjects. Have a list to fall back on if you find your creativity flagging (as it may).

3) Focus on your passions. What do you love or hate about derby? What gets you excited or pissed off? Dig deep into what gets your emotions fired up. That's where inspiration comes from.

Keeping Up Your Pace

1) Commit. Publicly commit to a blogging schedule. You can even start small and then increase your writing load. Committing publicly will encourage you to maintain your pace, even if you drop off as I did in the past few weeks.

2) Read other derby blogs. Check out other parts of the conversation online. Respond to them. Reach out to them. If you disagree, do it politely. You are part of a conversation that crosses the world. Get involved and stay involved.

3) Don't be afraid to come back after an absence. The internet can occasionally be a forgiving place. The important thing is to not feel embarrassed or guilty for not blogging. You still have a right to have your say.

Blog on.