Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Five Things from the #RDWC2014

This year I attended the Roller Derby World Cup in Dallas, and was very grateful I did. Here are 5 things I learned during the four day event.

1. Come Prepared. I am the queen of procrastination, and working on World Cup previews in the car as we drove to Dallas is an example of this. BUT I was able to work while on the move because I had an internet hot spot that I had purchased for WFTDA Championships. Covering derby events is always unpredictable, and one should never rely on everything being set up for you or the way you want it exactly. Hopefully, the event coordinators are willing to work with you, but it is not all about you, it's about the skaters and the competition on the track. Having the hot spot definitely saved my ass over the weekend, but there were other areas I could have thought out a little bit better. Everything managed to work out on the fly, but it could have saved a bit of sanity to go to Dallas with more of a game plan. (And possibly a budget for merch buying...)

2. If you build it, they will come. The first time around, people were a little doubtful about a Roller Derby World Cup since the sport was predominately in the United States, and that it is still in its infancy. Blowouts helped satisfy the critics, but the World Cup meant more to the derby world than just competition. In three years, the attendance went from 13 countries to 30, most of which had a creation story about being inspired by the 2011 cup. Roller Derby was already on the rise outside the States, but the World Cup was also likely responsible for the global derby explosion that has taken over Europe and is now spreading throughout other continents. For some people, being accepted to play on an international level may just be a title, and for others it was to represent their country. Either way, this was a ginormous event outside of the normal WFTDA scene that brought a lot of the usual faces together, but many more new ones.

All 30 teams after the Parade of Nations Sunday. (There was some body surfing..)

It was also an amazing weekend to build a bigger audience for Derby Central. It was a ton of work but totally worth it. My partner in crime, Brooklyn, and I, as well as some extra hands and awesome photographers ran around like crazy to cover all three tracks. And in a shameless plug, we are always looking for more volunteers and writers to help document this amazing sport that is covering the globe. Researching on European and South American teams made me really realize how much we need to highlight and support these leagues, and if you are in some of those other countries, we need your help!! (Contact if you'd like to help.)

3. Everyone loves an underdog. The world cup was originally going to institute a mercy rule that would have ended games with 20 minutes left if the team in the lead was up by 100 points. Yes, it was pretty evident that USA would probably take it all again, and by big points against newer teams, but teams understood this going into battle. They fought hard for every small victory and every point earned was as if they won the game. Japan was probably the freshest to enter the scene, and after four losses, including one shutout, they were the darlings of the weekend, and their merch was as good as gold. There were comments online about the outrageous scores, but I bet if you asked the skaters, they were glad other teams showed no mercy.

Team Japan. Photo by Danforth Johnson

4. Speak up. Before big derby events, I daydream about how I'm going to talk to all these people that I "know" online, and make new friends, and have a blast at the after party, but I feel like when the time comes, I miss a lot of those opportunities. The easiest way to network is to just be generally polite and introduce myself, but I'm awkward and shy away from striking up conversations. You would also think I have an "in" with being part of a media outlet, but I get too anxious. I realized it doesn't need to be a big to-do, next time I should at least just stick out my hand and say, "By the way, my name is Deadwards."
A video posted by Derby Central (@derbycentral) on
5. Keep your shit clean. In a exciting end in to our weekend, we got pulled over in Missouri on our drive back to Iowa City. It wasn't your run-of-the-mill traffic stop, but instead involved a police dog, standing along a highway in leggings, and drug accusations. I don't want to start anymore debates about police or legalities, but apparently our car was too dirty and when Danforth finds a joint on me in the next few weeks, he'll "know"...
Apparently a filthy car and my love for "boobing" Danforth's window led to some trouble...

Friday, May 23, 2014


I’m sure most of you have seen this video floating around, by Devaskation, with Atomatrix talking about the Atom BOOM wheel. It caught my attention when she said it was specifically made for concrete, because that’s what I skate on most often. I love the fluidity of juking on a slicker floor, but also want some grip on my wheels to back me up. The BOOM wheel is a hybrid, which basically means it’s good on multiple surfaces. This made me think about the evolution of my relationship with different wheels, and how there are so many variables when considering a wheel in Roller Derby.

The first wheel upgrade I ever bought was a full set of Sugars, which were one of the first hybrid wheels for derby. Considering I was previously just skating on the stock wheels that came with my skates, I was ecstatic. It was my first year, I wanted to jam, so I wanted a big grippy wheel to pull me around the track. Our team has always practiced on slippery floor; dusty gym floors or polished concrete, so I was craving a way to get more traction. I was new, so my skills were poor, I was a little heavier, and my stance was shit, so I needed a big, fat sticky wheel. Sugars were heaven.

Then I was given four Heartless VooDoo wheels and paired them with some Omega. The person that gave me the Heartless thought they felt like “mud” but she was a slight jammer who probably didn’t need as much grip. After that someone pushed Poisons at me, knowing I would like them and I did. They came with an aluminum hub which made them feel sturdier, and I liked the grip. I tried to pair them with a new wheel and thought B’zerks looked cool, so I got the Madman. It’s a wide wheel that I now wonder how I ever skated on. Eventually I traded it out for a slimmer Omega wheel.

Last year, I thought the Reckless wheels looked good (I have very scientific reasons for choosing wheels…) and bought the Ikon to go with my Omega. Generally, I have liked a grippier wheel paired with a harder wheel so that I can really dig in my crossovers, while not tripping myself up.

As a jammer, I like a slimmer wheel for footwork.
Photo by Danforth Johnson
I hadn’t had a full set of one wheel since the Sugars, but I couldn’t resist trying the BOOM. I got some from DevaSkation and immediately loved them. I don’t slide around on our concrete floor but don’t get tripped up on a stickier floor. When I hockey stop, they're generally silent on concrete if that means anything to you. So far I’ve only had them on concrete and a wood rink floor, and I didn’t feel like I needed to switch them out. In Fargo, the concrete floor was a little slicker, but I felt like I adjusted easily after a few jams.

They come in “Firm” and “X-Firm” instead of with a durometer number, and as Atomatrix explains in the video, it’s a new formula that she didn’t want to put a number on. She also totes it as the best hybrid on the market with a 30 day guarantee. They also come wide (62mm x 44mm), slim (59mm x 38mm), and X-Slim (59mm x 35mm). Atom is also selling a red, white and blue wheel with proceeds going towards Team USA.

I got the USA one in X-Firm and Slim. For those of you who get confused by all the numbers like me, the 59 means how tall it is (the diameter of the wheel) and 38 means how wide the wheel is. Then generally there is a number for durometer, or the grippiness of the wheel. When there is more wheel contacting the ground, by using a wider wheel, it requires more effort to move around. A taller wheel also means it can be slower to start rolling while a smaller wheel is quicker. I like a quick, agile wheel, so I tend to look at shorter and slimmer wheels. These wheels have felt great so far, but it’s probably taken me the five years I’ve been skating to get comfortable on skates for this kind of wheel.

With the different options they give you, and the versatility of the wheel itself, it is a good wheel to have in your arsenal to pull out at any time. It’s competitively priced at $40 per 4-pack and you can even purchase the “official wheel of Team USA” if you feel so inclined. Check out and pick up a set, I’ve seen nothing but good reveiws about their service!