Last Saturday night my beloved and I went to watch the B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls take on the Kansas City Roller Warriors at the Craneway Pavillion in San Francisco. The BAD Girls were taking on the Warriors as part of the 2012 Roller Derby Championships.
The reason I mention the venue is because IT WAS AWESOME. It is a huge space, converted from a former Ford factory, set on the end of a pier with huge glass windows all around and some pretty awesome exposed beams. It was so amazing to sit watching kick-ass roller derby, surrounded by water and flooded by summer-eve light.
The atmosphere was incredible. People had signs, there was face-paint and a lot of cheering. The Warriors were greeted with pretty sub-par applause when they took to the track during the introductions. However, the crowd went completely bonkers for the BAD Girls, who weaved in and out of one another while some bad-ass hip hop played in the background. Yes, I said bad-ass, and yes, I am white.
I immensely enjoyed the game and was pleased to cheer along with my fellow San Franciscans as the BAD Girls thrashed the Warriors by around 100 points.
There was a notable (but not huge) skill-level difference between the American derby ladies and the Victorian Roller Derby League. At one point, a BAD Girls jammer was about to go out of bounds on the inside, so SHE JUMPED ACROSS THE TRACK. It was awesome. Another time, a blocker by the name of belle RIGHT hooks, made light work of a Warrior jammer and blocker – they literally bounced off her and k’od each other. It was pretty amazing.
Another difference was the size of the crowd – I would say the San Franciscan’s came out in about 30% greater numbers than what I’ve seen at the VRDL. Also, the set up seemed much better funded. Rather than skating on the concrete, they had set up a plastic track (or something like that – it was a series of sheets clicked together) and special barriers. The seating was better too, including a special zone for people with special needs, a VIP zone and massive stalls as well as a designated crash zone. Also, the drinks were different – it was only possible to buy wine, beer or shots. There was no cider or mixed drinks. Strange! Not that I really needed to provide comments on the beverage selection, I’m sure none of you really care. But shots? Seriously?!
Another cool thing was that they had two screens, each showing live footage as well as scores.
It was clear that the Bay Area supports its roller derby really well, and Victoria can look to them to see what the future of derby could be. It also gives me hope that as the sport grows in Australia, so will its potential to have better equipped venues and higher attendance rates.
A similarity of the two however, is that the sport is pretty white in the Bay Area, as it is in Victoria. There are only one or two non-white skaters in both of the league’s A Teams. It would be great to see the sport reaching out to include a more diverse group of women and have the capacity to support these women to participate to the best of their ability. It’s a tough ask I know, as I’m assuming both of these leagues function largely on volunteer’s time and the skaters are not paid to train or compete. However, I think it should be part of the sport’s aspirations.
Oh and another similarity – both leagues have after parties!