The Sitka Sound Slayers goof around during a group shot of several members.
Ketchikan's Rainforest Rollergirls pose for a group shot of several members.
Story last updated at 2/27/2013 - 2:33 pm
Roller Derby is taking off in Southeast Alaska - so don't be surprised if there's a run on booty shorts, crazy socks and stockings, and wild make up in your town.
Juneau Roller Girls is entering its third year as the first league in Southeast, and with the league's success four new leagues and/or teams have sprouted up across the region along with a recreational club. Wrangell, Ketchikan, Petersburg and Sitka are all growing brand new teams and learning the ins and outs of derby, preparing for when they will be able to have their first bout.
What this means for the future of derby bouts (matches or games) is that Southeast is likely to get a lot more exciting in terms of women's athletics. Be prepared to see women from local communities smashing into each other on roller skates in wild outfits with even wilder names.
But for now, while the teams are growing into their skates - and working up enough cash to buy their first pairs - the teams are working together to get off on the right foot.
Tatiana "Hottie Onya" Perkins is part of a team that started the Sitka Sound Slayers. They just finished a beginner's boot camp with Shocker Khan, of the Rage City Rollergirls, where members of Petersburg, Ketchikan and Wrangell's teams joined in.
"We're definitely trying to build up our connections in Southeast, with sometime in the near future having bouts between Juneau, Petersburg, Sitka, Wrangell and Ketchikan."
Perkins lived half her life in Juneau and worked in dental with SEARHC (SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium) and first heard about derby through their pediatric dentist, Kim Hort. Sitkan Kiley Jackson also started doing derby in Juneau, and it started feeling like everyone she knew was getting into derby. So Perkins thought, why not?
"I went to my first bout, the Monster Bash bout," she said. "That's kind of when I fell in love with derby. It was only the two Juneau teams playing at the same time."
She put the word out on Facebook, seeking interest levels in starting a Sitka team. Sixty women showed up to the first meeting.
Between Perkins, Jessica "Jule Be Hurtin" Fransen and Jennifer "Nitrogen" Olney-Miller, the group got going. Perkins said it slowed down a bit from the initial interest, but that's partly because they decided to start practice after the New Year, so the holidays whittled down numbers. Now, there are about 20 active skaters.
Perkins said there has been a lot of support, with area communities reaching out. She said it would have been a lot harder without that support.
"We have 18 right now on skates and a couple more waiting for their skates to come in," Perkins said. "There are more that are like wow, this is really going. I think a lot of girls haven't invested in it because it can be pretty expensive. Cheaper skates run around $100, run all the way up to $500. I think a lot of girls were really interested, once they figured out money, $40 a month just for gym rental fees. Insurance that goes into derby is $65 for the whole year. It's a lot of money. It's a lifestyle too."
The story behind the league name is they wanted something edgy, but something that also represented Sitka. They thought of a play on Mt. Edgecumbe or fishing, before settling on the name.
The tone of the league is currently set to "fun."
"We have our eyes set on traveling or hosting traveling teams to come and have some bouts," Perkins said. "Whether its teams from Southeast or Anchorage, whatever. It's something we have set in our near future - something for fun to have as our own. We have women who are stay at home moms, who work in dental, own their own business. That's why we love it."
Perkins said Sitka has responded well to derby sprouting up, and that people are "chomping at the bit" for when the girls can have their first bout.
But for now, they are working on drills and skills, learning about gear and keeping up with stops.
"I think the atmosphere is everything, excitement, wow this is really happening," Perkins said. "We're just determined and ready and we're excited."
Wrangell has started up with the Garnet Grit Betties. Shawna "Baby Cakes" Buness is a founding member and coach. She and her friend Micky, both from Washington originally, had watched a lot of roller derby and wanted to be a part of it. Social media kicked off the team, just like with Sitka, as Buness made a post on Facebook about starting a team and the first sit-down meeting garnered the interest of about 20 women. Buness said the first practice, however, only had a total of 4 people (that was prior to the meeting). There are now 14 women who show up regularly, and the first practice was on Oct. 1. The duo went to a bout in Juneau on Sept. 29, and immediately got to "scheming" when they got home to Wrangell.
"The whole town has been responsive to it," Buness said.
Buness said they've been successful in getting support for sponsorships. They also had a practice exhibition in the gym, open to the public, the first weekend in February.
"We filled the gym," she said. "It was awesome, we didn't expect that. We've just gotten great feedback."
The name was picked because a team member said that Wrangell is known for its garnets - you could still climb up a trail, get to an old creek and still find garnets in the rocks. The team member said they used to mine the rocks for sandpaper, and it was an all woman crew.
The team intends to play for fun, but winning wouldn't be so bad either.
"We're a pretty laid back - everybody has a great time," Buness said. "As we're getting more experienced and its getting more serious. We're not just there to skate; we're there to learn. The competitive edge of the girls is definitely coming out."
One challenge will be to find a place to actually host bouts, as the present gym is too small for regulations. Another, Buness said, is the cost of gear. Add to that Wrangell's small population, and growing the team will be a challenge.
Ketchikan has fired up their league - the Ketchikan Rainforest Roller Girls.
Jill Walker, league treasurer, said the league president Stephanie Sanguinetti was in derby in Madison, Wis., and really enjoyed it.
"She moved up here and decided she wanted to start a league," Walker said. "The First Saturday of November was the first we met and talked about doing roller derby in Ketchikan."
They had 45 women show up at least once since then, with 25-30 of them in the "core group" who attend regularly.
"Our goal is to, we really right now just want to play for fun because we're just starting, we're still learning," Walker said. "I don't think anyone is gung-ho, we really want to annihilate another team. Later on I imagine we'll get more competitive as time goes on and we learn more about what we're doing."
Right now they practice five times a week at different skill levels. Some of it's focusing on skating, others on blocking, skating in a pack, jumps, falling, skirmishes, and getting comfortable with preparing for another skater to make physical contact with them.
"It's feeling really good," she said. "It's really cohesive. Everyone seems to get along really well. Everyone's really excited and really happy to have a winter activity. Something where you can get out and work out and meet new people. It's been really good I think for a lot of people."
Petersburg has started up The Ragnar┐k Rollers, which according to their website "refers to a great battle" in Norse. Petersburg embraces its Scandinavian/Norwegian heritage, so the team flavor certainly shows it as well.
"The membership seeks to promote a model of family and community orientated roller derby," its website states. "The league is devoted to inspiring and motivating women to move; fostering and attitude of ability by empowering women of any size and fitness level with new skills, stamina, strength and endurance, required in a competitive sport."
The Ragnar┐k Rollers have also had great interest in its start up, with more than 100 people interested in either skating with or supporting the team within its first two weeks of announcing the intent to form a team.
Kelly "Midgi Moto" Moore skated with Juneau Roller Girls at the start, having competed in derby for a total of six years (with the other years skating down South). She and Shonda "Money Honey" Belknap" formed Taku Rollersports in July, which is a non-competitive club open to all ages and all genders. Competitive roller derby is open to women ages 18 and older.
Moore said that Belknap's interest is in teaching children the sport, while the group's interest is in skating for health.
Moore is excited about the growth of Southeast Alaskan teams.
"I think it's phenomenal," she said. "I think it's absolutely wonderful to see Southeast growing in this fashion. The enthusiasm in the women is exciting. Truthfully, I actually thought it would have happened a lot sooner."
Moore said the Rage City Rollergirls (Anchorage) kicked off the sport in Alaska, and it has been spreading since.
"One of the things I think will happen is as the leagues grow, we'll be able to play against one another, but help each other grow," she said.
The teams and leagues could even grow to be a Southeast conference, if that's the direction it wanted to go. She said in Hawaii they've formed conferences where teams are formed per island and the island leagues compete.
"I think as the sport gets more and more athletic, different levels will come into play," Moore said. "You'll have your highly competitive leagues and you'll have your recreational leagues."
Moore said derby has been evolving rapidly since she started in 2006.
"It's like going from stick ball to baseball," she said.
It started as a fringe or outcast sport, for women who weren't interested in more traditional sports. Now, the athletic women from those sports are getting into the derby scene nationwide, and the tone is changing.
Moore said Southeast is in a position to go either direction - super athletic or non-traditional.
Sarah Day is the editor of Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.