17 August 2012

Short shorts, tight tights, and roller skates, oh my! An inside look at roller derby, Québec-style

We have a friend here who skates in the local roller derby league, and I have to admit I'm intrigued.  It sounds like a lot of fun, and the retro elements of the sport - costumes and four-wheel skates - really appeal to the vintage side of my style.  On the other hand, I have never roller skated or roller bladed before, and only ice skated a couple of times in my childhood.  The idea of learning how to do it at high speeds on a concrete track is more than a little bit daunting.  And, they practice "in the middle of the night," because that's when they can get time in the sports centers otherwise dominated by off-season hockey practices.

So, I resisted pulling yet another "Oh yes, I'll do that too!"  Instead, I caught up with Stephanie, watched a derby match, asked a lot of questions, and even conned her into posing for a portrait sketching group that I participate in.  Keep reading for pictures and a recently published QCT article.  Living vicariously can be so much fun!  



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It is likely safe to say most of us have little to no experience with roller derby. When you hear the words, perhaps you think of short shorts, roller skates, loud music, bright lights, and hockey-like aggression displayed by girls with far less protective gear - all signature aspects of a 1970s sport no longer en vogue.

However, Stephanie Ewen recently assured the QCT that roller derby is experiencing a resurgence, and Quebec City is no exception. It began as roller skate races in the 1920s, and later evolved.  As Ewen explained, “Roller derby became a big televised theatrical event. It became so much of a spectacle that it was like pro wrestling. Limited to specialized tracks and increasingly predictable, it just died out.” Nearly four decades later, “it was revived in Texas, where the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association was established.” She added, “Roller derby is one of the fastest-growing women’s sports in the world.” According to WFTDA, there was one league in 2001, and today there are over 1,000 leagues.   


Ewen, in the white helmet, regularly plays as the ‘jammer,’ the player on each team able to score points by passing all five players on the other team.

Ewen continued, “Derby culture is more about what it represents than its history.  There are so many women who have told me they had never played a sport before, and that seems to be common in derby everywhere.” She hypothesized that this is due to the simplicity of the sport. “You put on some skates. You can be as involved as you want, or not. As physical as you want, or not. As with other sports, there is the sense of belonging, personal accomplishment, and a sense of belonging to a team. But, it is much more than that. It is a very real source of empowerment for all these women.”  

Here in Quebec City, this is certainly the case. Ewen pointed out, “Locally, no one knows anything about roller derby. It is not mainstream, and these women made it up from scratch when they founded the league in 2010. To have success at that is powerful. It is also different enough from other sports that non-traditional athletes can identify with it and achieve personal success.”

. . . Click here to read full article (pg. 7) . . .




To learn more, or sign up, contact Roller Derby Québec by visiting http://rollerderbyqc.com or find them on Facebook.







2 comments:

Britta said...

Loved the article.  Have you taken it up?

Bethann said...

Thank you!  I'm glad you enjoyed it.  Lots of fun to write, for sure.

No, I haven't, taken it up, but I'm tempted. Stephanie is a friend of ours - actually another biology major at U. Laval, which is how we met her.  She's quite the character, so derby makes sense for her.  I'd be interested, maybe, but don't know when I'd fit it in.  Plus, they practice late enough at night that it's "past my bedtime."  :)

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