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Roll with it

Two rookie roller derby teams competing in Nanaimo
Harbour City Rollers players Kassandra 'Kazzinova Krusher' Brown

Crazy outfits, kooky names and skates are features of the latest spectator sport to come to Nanaimo – roller derby.

In the past couple years, two teams have started up in the Harbour City – Nanaimo Nemesis Roller Girls and the Harbour City Rollers.

The contact sport features fishnets, booty shorts, alter egos and bruises, said Jennifer Wigmore, aka Jenesis, president of the Nanaimo Nemesis team’s board of directors.

“It’s kind of like lingerie on wheels,” she said – with a touch of violence and aggression thrown in.

The two rookie teams from Nanaimo face off against rookie teams from across the Island in their first tournament at the Nanaimo Ice Centre July 2-3.

“There’s so many women who want to be involved right now,” said Wigmore. “It’s very inclusive for women of all shapes and sizes.”

“It’s nice to have the hometown competition,” said Amanda Webb, coach of the Harbour City Rollers. “It’s sprouting up all over the Island.”

The Nanaimo teams were born when Wigmore and a neighbour who had skated with the Eves of Destruction team in Victoria began meeting in the Beban Park parking lot.

“We’d sit and she’d skate and I’d watch her,” she said.

After the photos hit Facebook, other women started getting involved.

Soon after, the girls split into two teams.

She describes roller derby as much like rugby on skates with one woman serving as the ball.

Five people from each team participate at a time. The girl at the front of the ‘pack’ is called the pivot, followed by three ‘blockers’ and then a ‘jammer’. Eight of the women – the pack – start on one start line and the two jammers start on another line behind the pack.

The goal is for the jammers to get through the pack and then lap the pack. For each member of the opposition the jammer passes, the team gets a point.

And that’s where things get aggressive, said Wigmore.

Pivots and blockers try to assist their jammer in getting through the pack while also trying to stop the opposing team’s jammer from exiting the pack. Players can block using their hips or the sides of their bodies, as well as their backsides – called a “booty block” – and can only use their arms and hands to help their own players.

All girls are required to wear an array of safety equipment, including helmet, wrist guards, elbow guards, knee pads and mouth guard, which Switchback Longboards provides to Nanaimo Nemesis girls at cost.

Players need to be able to jump on skates, avoid fallen players and skate 25 laps in five minutes.

“We’ve had injuries, we’ve had bruises,” said Wigmore. “It’s always a spectacle when you’ve got women in crazy outfits bumping into each other. This is almost like a gladiator-type sport.”

The Harbour City Rollers also hope to put on some fundraisers and demonstrations in the coming months to show people what the sport is all about, said Webb.

“It’s very different than what it used to be in the ’70s,”  she said.