The Wheel Deal

“A mother shouldn’t watch this,” groans a woman leaning on a low concrete wall that lines the Skater’s Choice roller rink in Hendersonville. The mom in question has just seen her daughter—a rollergirl named KaPOWie! who’s preparing for her team’s first official bout—get knocked to the floor as she rounded the pack at a Blue Ridge Rollergirls scrimmage.

photos by Jonathan Welch

But KaPOWie brushes the hit off and races back into the fray, where Asheville’s two roller-derby teams—the Wham Bam Thank You Ma’ams and the Candy Apple Razorblades—circle the track, tangling and butting against one another. Knee and elbow pads smack against concrete, already bruised hips clad in pink or black miniskirts skid across the paint, and girls on the sidelines cheer for more.

“They’ve come a long way in the past year,” head referee Johnny Crash remarks, noting that the teams will only get fiercer as they compete in front of crowds and travel to take on teams in other leagues.

“Things got competitive real fast,” confirms rollergirl Sugar MagMaulYa.

Roller derby, which hit the spotlight in the 1950s and ‘60s, has of late seen a revival in cities all around the country. A quick primer: In the matches, two teams of five rollergirls take to the track. One player from each team—the “jammer”—tries to lap the track and push through the pack of other rollergirls, scoring points along the way. There’s a bit more to it than that, but the real appeal is in the pushing and shoving that takes place to keep jammers from getting through.

There is a regimen required in order to be an officially sanctioned league, and for the past year the Blue Ridge Rollergirls have been hell bent on completing it, setting up insurance and fund-raisers, recruiting skaters and training constantly.

It’s one thing to see a rollergirl stage a fall under practice conditions. It’s yet another to see one get hit and take a high-speed fall, bounce across the floor and scramble, red faced, to her wheels to give chase, then blast her way at the pack.

Something is unleashed when the rollergirls don their ragtag uniforms, adopt names like Evil Maria and TerrorDactyle, and strap on their skates, and it is a hell of a lot of fun to see.

“It’s a real transformation when you get out in the rink,” says MagMaulYa. She notes that the sport’s presentation and circus-like atmosphere can lead people to compare roller derby to the fixed fights of pro-wrestling, but nothing here is predetermined. “It’s a real sport,” she declares.

“Summer Shovin’”—the Blue Ridge Rollergirls first public competition—takes place at the outdoor hockey rink at Asheville’s Carrier Park on Saturday, June 30. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the bout begins at 7:30 p.m. A half-time show will be provided by the Unifire Dance Company. Tickets are $8 and are available at the gate or at Harvest Records, Static Age Records and Eaties Cereal Bar. Children under 12 can attend for free. Visit www.blueridgerollergirls.com for more information.

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