The Big One: Wellington's roller derby final

Posted by Bel. The time is 3:25pm here in Wellington, NZ.

Saturday was the Richter City Roller Derby showdown, with Smash Malice and Brutal Pageant facing off for the last time this year. With one win apiece in the earlier bouts, a big night was brewing.

Smash Malice in the leopard print; Brutal Pageant in pink and red, sashes obscured. Click for large.

For those not familiar with how a roller derby works, here are the short and sweet rules of a bout. (It's a bit like quidditch.)

Roller derby is relatively new to New Zealand's shores, but it has been embraced with enthusiasm. You certainly have to be whole-heartedly committed to put your body through the rigours of what is a fast paced, full contact and no-holds-barred sport.

I overheard a conversation in the toilets which echoed my thoughts: "I'd love to do it, I mean, it'd be fun... but oh my god." "I know. Oh my god."

Mid-jam pile up. Looks like it's turning into a brawl, but I'm pretty sure it didn't. Click for large.

It makes for a great spectator sport (and on Saturday there was over 1000 people at the TSB Arena). A friend commented that there is a kind of trashy NASCAR atmosphere - which is so true, and which helps make it so awesome.

You cheer, you boo, you have a few drinks and eat some fried food. You buy a ticket for the raffle and regret not making a sign proclaiming your love for your favourite skater to enter into the half-time competition and generally just wave around and use to get the attention of your mates sitting on the opposite side of the track.

My favourites (on team Smash Malice - I have some friends/coworkers associated. Just as well because I don't think I could have made a decision based solely on the sartorial options) are Punk Pantha, who was a guaranteed super-points-scorer each time she slipped the jammer 'panties' on over her helmet, and Huttbreaker, because she just owned the track. From Brutal Pageant, I love/hate Goldie Scorn, because I knew we were in trouble each time she rolled up.

We left feeling exhilarated and a little bit exhausted. Because each jam lasts two minutes at the longest, the night has a hectic 'perpetual motion' feel to it - I can't imagine how tired the people who actually spent the whole time on their feet (wheels) were feeling!

Skaters go past in a blur while an official looks on. Click for large.
(Note those in 'suicide seats' at back. And someone from Brutal Pageant in the penalty box, har ha!)

Smash Malice came out winners of the final, no doubt thanks in part to my particularly rambunctious cheering. It was a close call at one stage though, when their jammer got sent to the penalty box and Brutal Pageant took the chance to bring the scores within one point of each other. Nerve-wracking!!

I'm looking forward to the release of Whip It later this year, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, based on a roller girl's memoirs. Starring Ellen Page (and a veritable gang of cool girls, including Zoe Bell and Juliette Lewis (Scientologist though, ugh)), in anyone else's hands I'd be worried they were cashing in on a 'trend' and Hollywooding the girl power of it. But this trailer fills me with joy:

For a much better selection of much better photos from The Big One, check out Jed Sloane's flickr.

3 thoughts on “The Big One: Wellington's roller derby final”

  1. That "someone in the penalty box" is Nova, she was in and out all night. I think the whole of Brutal went through by the end of the night...

  2. Thanks for the tip-off :)

    I often found myself saying in reply to the question "why she's going to the penalty box??", "I don't know! something bad!". It's so fast paced that if you're watching the jammer, you miss the tussles in the thick of the pack - and even if you are keeping an eye on them, it all looks like carnage anyway...!