Like rollerball, but with no ball and women with balls

February 22nd, 2014

This article is more than 9 years old.

Copenhagen Roller Derby
Next intro meeting: Valby Hallen, Julius Andersens Vej 3; Mon 3 March, 21:00; free adm
Next bout: Baltiska Hallen, Eric Perssons Väg, Malmö; Sat 22 Feb, 12:00; 95sek (120sek at the door)


What souvenir would you bring to Denmark from a trip to the USA?

They already have beef jerky here, way too much style to don I <3 New York shirts, tops or caps, and there are too few cars and Christians for bumper stickers to really take off.

Emma Hedman proved an inch (=2.54 cm) more creative and brought a whole sport with her: roller derby. And if these words make you think WTF or WWF on skates, your ideas are outdated by only a decade.

Resurrection and resistance

The sport started in the 1930s as a series of banked-track roller-skating marathons, gradually degenerating into an essentially theatrical form of sports entertainment. Staged hits and falls just look too good on TV to pass up.

But before roller derby could bleed out for good (and after most people had stopped caring), a grassroots movement resurrected the sport, stripped it of its gratuitous showmanship and injected a healthy dose of DIY confidence.

Modern roller derby’s militant resistance to conventional sports organisations probably explains its lack of national media exposure. Pretty courageous for a rising sport.

Pretty courageous, too, are fishnet stockings, exuberant make-up and pin-up girls as emblems for a sport that wants nothing to do with its plastic history.
The teams defy current conventions of contact sports and revamp them with distinctly camp-y aesthetics. That is counter-productive in terms of their athletic legitimacy, at least as far as the public image is concerned. But it’s also playful and bold.

These women are the living proof that you don’t need to be masculine to have balls. And that’s sexy if you look at the numbers.

Fast growing and moving

Roller derby is now proud to be the fastest-growing sport in the USA, and people like Hedman help to spill it far beyond the country that owns the Statue of Liberty.

The success of her initiative is a case in point for roller derby’s appeal: after coming back to Denmark in 2009, she initially had to borrow players from the ‘Aarhus Derby Danes’ to fill the team; now Copenhagen Roller Derby has 110 members and no shortage of interest in its monthly introductory meetings.

If you can’t decide if you are more curious or more terrified of giving it a go yourself, maybe you feel something like Beate before she became a member of ten months.

Bowled over in Berlin

“On a trip to Berlin I ended up on the same flight as a group of players from Copenhagen Roller Derby,” she told InOut.

“Immediately, I was stunned by how unbelievably cool they were with their tattoos, golden player jackets and ‘I won’t take no crap’ attitude. After that encounter, I was convinced that I wanted to join in on this amazing sport, even if I hadn’t worn skates since I was 12 (and honestly, never really been stable on any type of wheels). It did, however, take me more than a year to gather the courage to actually show up for try-outs.”

Thus began Beate’s affair with roller derby. While many of your excuses won’t work here (few members join as expert skaters and the oldest skating member is 51), it’s true that committing to such a DIY affair takes up a lot of your time, and though it pays off in terms of work-out, new friends and fun, you may feel safer on the sidelines.

Before you protest that you’re a part of the ‘I don’t really care for sports segment’, follow Beate’s advice and “go watch a Derby bout and see if this may be the exception. Roller derby is the only sport I’ve ever gotten a kick out of watching.”


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