Photographing Roller Derby (or, I’d rather be skating)

I would probably love photographing roller derby more if I didn’t wish I was playing it. Still, I loved being there for my team and screaming cheering encouragement from the sidelines as they took on the Ohio Valley Rollergirls a week and a half ago.

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It is completely different to watch derby from the sidelines than to play it. And to watch at different stages of my derbyventure makes things even more interesting. Before I passed my WFTDA minimum skills test to become a Vixen this past October, I watched my team play with a half view of awe and a half view of student, trying to understand what in the hell was happening.

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I played in the two bouts immediately following my graduation into Vixen-hood, and after my second bout in December, we headed into the (very short) off-season. At the end of January, during a scrimmage against D.C., I tore my MCL – and just like that, I was off skates for 3 months.

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I kept myself busy with league business stuff, which I was doing anyhow, and read the rules and watched a lot of YouTube videos. I tried not to be depressed as February rolled by and I missed the opportunity to play in two bouts. Then came March, and another bout opportunity lost. I tried to think of all of the ways my injury could have been worse, which was usually helpful during the day. But let’s face it – I would go to practice at night and watch my teammates and be a sad, sad puppy when I left.

So I went back to watching the bouts. And tried to take away as much knowledge as I could from them. Trying to learn differently now that I’ve had the chance to also play.

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Mid-way through March I showed up to practice and began skating. Just skating, no contact. It hurt. It was challenging. It felt awesome to be skating again. Can you imagine, becoming that attached to something that after only 6 months of having it and then it being taken away, that you are blissfully happy to get it back again? (I mean, besides having a baby or something. Obviously you’d become attached to that pretty quickly. Work with me here, people.)

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I worked with the fresh meat for the first few weeks after I came back since I couldn’t fully participate in the Vixen practices. It was extremely helpful, getting back to basics. And also rewarding to teach new skaters.

And then, finally.

I started with some light hitting drills. I was scared. I didn’t want any special treatment, but I also knew I couldn’t function at 100% either. So, practice after practice, I pushed myself, listening to my body the whole time.

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I knew getting to bout in April wouldn’t happen either, so I did the next thing I love the best – I took pictures. I mean, they are not the best pictures I’ve ever taken, with fast movement and low lightining and a sub-par zoom lens, but still. I love looking through the photos a week later, seeing things that I didn’t see originally, admiring my teammates and skills I may have caught them doing. My favorite ones?

When I catch them smiling – genuinely.

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This is what this is about. We all have our reasons for doing this, but at the end of the day, isn’t it for some kind of self-fulfillment? Which usually does what? Well, makes us happy, of course.

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(Except during pre-game huddle. This is very serious business.)

I’m so happy to be back skating. Derby makes me HAPPY. I’ve pushed myself practice after practice, and it feels so good to accomplish things on the track. Again.

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In pursuit of skates: Brooklyn

After my unsuccessful trip to Virginia Beach, a few friends and I planned a day trip to Brooklyn in the middle of the week to go to a derby skate shop there. Five hours after we left, we arrived at 11am.

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Five Stride Skate Shop. Brooklyn, NY.

The shop is owned by two derby skaters who skate for Gotham: Bonnie Thunders and OMG WTF. Uh, awesomeness.

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The shop was super small, as expected, but filled with all of the goodness you could imagine of an only-derby shop.

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I began the (long) process of getting fitted for my skates, without knowing that my feet were abnormal, and therefore, causing the long fitting. Bonnie had me try on 4-5 different pairs of skates, in different sizes. She carefully laced them, sometimes re-lacing the same skate a different way so it would fit differently. She asked me tons of questions so she could understand how it fit and how I was feeling. She was extremely attentive – and considering we were there for about 3 hours from start to finish, I was impressed. I really can’t say enough good things about my experience here – it made me feel EXTREMELY comfortable, considering the big wad of cash I was about to drop on some leather boots with wheels.

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(This photo has nothing to do with the story. Just making sure you are paying attention.)

So, the thought of actually having skates that fit me, that weren’t two sizes two big, gave me the motivation to purchase them. I had to custom order them – as one foot was a half size bigger than the other. So off we went, with the promise that I would receive my skates in 5-7 weeks.

We headed to (what is apparently) a famous pizza shop in Brooklyn, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. It wasn’t bad, but then again, I’m a more Jersey style pizza girl. Good friends and root beer to top dinner off.

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By the time we left Brooklyn it was around 5, and we had a 5 hour trip to get back home. A long day is an understatement. But, two months later when they finally arrived, it was worth it.

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Bonnie and OMG told me it would be a solid 2 months before I really had them broken in… they were definitely not kidding. My feet have had better days. But, it’s worth it. The pain always is.

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Remy Roller

In pursuit of skates: Beach

Back in January, we took a day trip to Virginia Beach to check out a local skate shop (I wanted to upgrade from my current starter skates). After a few hours there, we rushed to the sand and got some final glimpses of the sea before the sun dipped below the horizon. It was an unusually warm January day.

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They didn’t have a lot of different types of skates to try on at this shop, but I did learn my first important piece of information when it comes to my feet and skates: The skates I had on were 2 sizes too big. TWO! Bummer.

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That was the first time my feet stepped on the sand since – since I don’t know when. I miss the beach. It’s where I belong.

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Since I didn’t have many choices of skates to try on, we made plans to take another day trip to another skate shop.

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Next stop: BROOKLYN!