Glenwood roller league on a roll |

Glenwood roller league on a roll

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Scot L. GerdesMembers of Roaring Fork Roller Derby run through a drill at a recent practice.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Paula Daniels took in a bout in Oregon and instantly knew she had to strap on a pair of skates and give it a try.

Seeing a young girl roll by on Heelys, Gena Hawkins had an epiphany, of sorts, in, of all places, City Market.

Soon after, the two linked up and got the wheels turning – literally and figuratively – on Roaring Fork Roller Derby.

In its infancy, the valley’s newest sports league is already popular. New faces constantly surface at the league’s twice-weekly practices at the Glenwood Springs Community Center rink, joining a core group of 10 to 15 women.

While the first bout is still a ways from becoming a reality, a foundation is taking shape. With the coffers brimming after successful fundraisers and overwhelming interest filling up the league’s roster, roller derby will soon be a reality in the valley.

And it all started when Daniels and Hawkins brought their ideas together this spring.

The latter fondly recalls that fateful stroll through City Market.

“I’m sure there’s a universal cosmic thing going on,” said Hawkins, known as “Smash Box” by her teammates. “I want to do roller derby because I want to wear the bad-ass clothes. I thought, ‘Am I on the right track?’

“Right when I went through the grocery store at City Market, a little girl passed me. She had those Heelys on and started gliding right past me. I thought, ‘It’s a sign. I’m on the right track.'”

That was her “come-to-derby moment,” she said.

“I called a friend and said, ‘You know what? I want to start a roller derby league,’ and he goes, ‘That’s so weird. I just saw a poster at a tattoo shop in Glenwood. There’s another gal trying to start one.'”

So Hawkins gave Daniels, the other gal, a call. It didn’t take long for their idea to take off.

“It spread like wildfire,” said Daniels, whose tentative roller derby nickname is “The Phearless Phoenix.”

Like Hawkins, Daniels experienced somewhat of a “come-to-derby” moment.

“When I lived in Eugene, Ore., I went and saw a bout,” she said. “I was just really enthralled by it. I wanted to be a part of it, but my schedule did not allow me to do so. When I moved back to Glenwood Springs, I watched the movie ‘Whip It’ in January. That rekindled my love.”

That love led to an ambitious venture, one that’ll soon make the Roaring Fork Valley part of a nationwide derby movement.

As virtually everyone associated with the Roaring Fork Roller Derby quickly points out, flat track roller derby is one of the nation’s fastest-growing sports.

But it’s a sport that’s been around for the last 20 or 30 years.

“Roller derby has had quite the resurgence,” Deirdra “Devour” Harcourt said. “It actually started in the 1920s. About 1980 in Texas, it started coming back, and it’s been going for a while now. Most cities now have at least a team, if not several teams. It’s fairly common, depending on the season.”

The rules of roller derby, a contact sport, are simple enough.

Skating in formation, roller skate-donning players speed around an oval track with the aim of racking up the most points. Points are earned by each teams’ designated scoring player – the jammer. Jammers earn points based on how many opponents they pass.

The job of the jammer’s teammates is to create openings for her and to keep the opponent’s jammer from scoring points.

Most present-day leagues are flat track and governed by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

“There is no ramp-banked derby anymore,” Hawkins said. “That’s what the past was and the movie ‘Whip It.’ It’s a movie. It’s a complete movie. There was a quote I read on one of the sites: ‘This ain’t your grandmother’s roller derby.'”

Roller derby is much more than just a sport or source of fitness to the women of Roaring Fork Roller Derby.

“It’s a very empowering thing for women to be a part of,” Daniels said. “Unlike a lot of other sports, it’s kind of got that alternative edge. There are lots of girls with tattoos or crazy outfits. It’s kind of an experience you don’t get to indulge in every day. You get to play dress-up. It’s a rad sport. It can be a pretty dangerous sport, but there’s some excitement to that level of danger. It’s very entertaining to watch.”

Women pour their personality into their attire. Brightly colored socks and painted-up helmets add flavor to the black Roaring Fork uniforms, which feature a logo crafted by local tattoo artist Aften Willcuts.

“You can get real creative with the socks,” said league member Safron McElwain, known as “Kate-Deck N’ Sail” to her roller derby peers.

“It gives us a chance to be goofy girls,” Nicky “Nefarious Nemesis” Foust said. “You can wear crazy socks, dress up and fancy up our helmets. Some girls have sparkles all over their shirts. There’s all kinds of crazy stuff.”

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