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Get your skates on
Rounding the corner to victory, the Port Scandalous Roller Derby keeps passing the competition.
While Epsom salt baths remain a staple after practices and bouts, these determined skaters aren’t letting scrapes and bruises get them down.
“Everyone is really encouraging,” said Sequim skater Juanita “Bad Muffin” Pine. “If you fall, you just get back up. It’s a lot of fun.”
Pine is a member of the growing team the Brawl Stars, an adult female team that plays some of the toughest teams in the region.
The Brawl Stars travel to Port Orchard on Feb. 23 to play the Dockyard Derby Dames. On March 16, they travel to their biggest bout ever in Key Arena to play the Throttle Rockets, one of the teams formed under the nationally known Rat City Roller Derby.
At Port Scandalous’ last bout in the Olympic Skate Center in Port Angeles, the Brawl Stars cruised over the Grunge City Rollers of Everett 330-48.
The team also formed a junior team for girls ages 12-17 called the Roller Punks. They faced the Northwest Junior Derby 2012 champions, the Rose City Rosebuds, the same night as the Throttle Rockets but Portland won 243-180.
The Roller Punks joined the Rosebuds in the Northwest Junior Derby conference this year.
Marianne “Onya” Madsen, co-captain of the Brawl Stars, said a lot has happened with Port Scandalous over the past few years.
The organization dropped the “Derby Dolls” from its name due to some trademark issues but most importantly it is pursuing certification with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.
Currently, the local organization is in the apprentice program awaiting approval. If it is accepted, likely in the fall, then Port Scandalous teams can play regionally for a chance at the national championship.
For now the junior and adult teams play one home bout and one away bout each month during the season against regional opponents.
Anything but choreographed
Even though roller derby continues gaining popularity, local players say they must overcome stereotypes established decades ago by the choreographed roller derby that involved hitting and wrestling-type moves.
“We’re striving to be professional,” Pine said. “There’s a whole strategy to the game.”
Simply put, a team scores points with its jammers, players with stars on their helmets, passing blockers, opponents without stars. They only can use certain parts of their body, i.e. shoulders and butt, for contact and penalties result in one minute in the penalty box.
“Hitting is your last resort,” said Sequim skater daja “Deja Boom” Thomas.
For local skaters, participants must join a 12-week boot camp where they learn the rules and meet qualifications such as making 25 laps in five minutes and doing stops, falls and jumps.
For new and old skaters, the learning curve isn’t great, Madsen said.
“I picked it up quickly,” she said. “I didn’t grow up roller skating. I just worked on my agility and strategy.”
Thomas grew up roller skating but said she had to learn to regain her balance.
“The derby stance is kind of painful,” she joked. “And endurance is another thing.”
Three times a week the Brawl Stars practice to perfect their fundamentals of derby.
Head coach Dylan Wichersham said he’s less focused on the length of a workout and more on the intensity.
Wichersham, voted Washington’s best derby coach last year, is only 18 and started coaching the Brawl Stars two years ago when the team went without a coach briefly.
To better his team, he researches techniques and other teams’ bouts online and attends bouts and practices.
“From bout to bout we’ll practice specific things that we know are the weakness of the other team,” he said. “The hardest part is being far away from other teams.”
Washington hosts a bevy of derby teams, with the closest being in Kitsap County. Sequim makes up less than a handful of the Brawl Stars and has no players with the Roller Punks.
Wichersham said even though the teams are drawing from a smaller pool of players than others, Port Scandalous is a team to watch.
“We got good really fast,” he said. “We’re beating teams that have been around five years longer than us.”
Making the rounds
Port Scandalous is a nonprofit organization operated by a 14-woman committee.
Pine said they have to seek their own sponsorships and do volunteer hours to make the teams financially viable.
Admission for bouts helps with rent and insurance for the Olympic Skate Center, which isn’t a WFTDA-sanctioned arena due to its rink and space for attendance.
The teams continue to look for a new rink for bouts but have exhausted their options for now.
Pine said roller derby could become a premiere sport in the area.
“The Olympic Peninsula could really benefit from that,” she said.
Many players have come and gone from the team but membership is always open. “Everyone has different commitment levels,” Madsen said.
Some players take breaks or get hurt or simply wanted to get in shape.
Pine said her first reason to join was to get back into shape but then the more she skated, the more she wanted to play.
Thomas, who chooses to play for Port Scandalous’ B-team, the Black Eyed B’s, said joining the Brawl Stars is a huge commitment she can’t do right now. “I have an 18-month child at home and me and my husband discussed what it would mean for me to be a part of it,” she said. “I don’t want to give it up.”
She still practices twice a week with the option to play in the future still open.
Port Scandalous isn’t all skaters: The team includes a number of volunteers as referees, helpers, scorekeepers, photographers and more.
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