Talk Derby To Me

by Jack Diablo
When I think about a roller rink, it brings back memories of getting dropped off at the mall, eating nachos and hot dogs, glow in the dark paint, and early nineties R&B. But head to Mandarin Skate Station for a Jacksonville Roller Girls match and the experience is quite different from those nostalgic childhood days.
Duval Brawl, held on April 19th, was an epic battle on wheels between the Duval Derby Dames and the River City Ratpack. The ladies competed in a flat track demolition derby of skin and polyurethane on the same rink where suburban tweens meet after school and on the weekends. But these girls didn’t show up to socialize, they came to kick some ass.
Local roller derby leagues have been popping up all over the country over the past few years and the sport has experienced a contemporary revival of sorts. If you are familiar with the derbies of yore, not much has changed except for the aesthetic. The grassroots, DIY nature of the sport makes it the perfect vehicle for the more eccentric sort to be creative and kitschy and let that freak flag fly.
You can get a pretty good idea of the target demographic as you pull up to the event. Since there’s no alcohol inside, the pre-gaming takes place on tailgates in the parking lot where tattooed arms flip burgers and dogs and cheap beer is guzzled by bikers and skaters and representatives from just about every counter-cultural sub-class. I’m sure the irony is lost on no one as they take their beer buzz inside such a brightly colored, kid-friendly establishment.
Inside, punk and hardcore music comprised the soundtrack as the roller girls and referees warmed up by skating in circles and conversed with the crowd. When it came time to get the show on the road, infAMY, the mouth of the Jacksonville Roller Girls, took the microphone and got the show underway. Each team-member was introduced by her nom de guerre, including such handles as Ivanna C.U. Bleed, Tackle BoXXX, and Gangsta Bitch Barbie. Even the referees had clever names like Derby Devil Dog and The Wang.
What may seem like dizzying chaos to the uninitiated is actually a structured and regulated sport. The girls staged an explanatory demonstration for all the newbies in the house on the objectives and rules of play of the sport. A more detailed explanation could be found in the printed programs.
Then the madness began. The rink became a flurry of elbows, knees, and tumbling skaters as each team’s jammer vied for the lead jammer spot to score the most points. The crowd mostly filled in along the barricades but some brave souls took folding chairs onto the floor to get a front row seat for all the action. More than a few got more than they bargained for when some of the girls were thrown out of the track or lost control and collided with the spectators.
The match was divided into three periods with a brief intermission during which live music was provided by the band Pawn Takes King and fire was breathed and swallowed outside.
After much sweating and screaming and pushing, the Derby Dames issued an old-school molly-whopping on the Ratpack and everyone’s bloodlust was satiated.
The next event will be held at the Jax Ice Sports Plex on Phillips Highway featuring the New Jax City Rollers against the Broward County Derby Girls. For more info check out the website at If you dare, that is!