5 things to know about outdoor roller derby

When we first started, my last league skated in an old school building’s gym — 60 feet by 40 feet, maybe*. So, when the sun came out in Rockland, Maine, we traded our dusty gym in for the high school basketball courts (which would fit a WFTDA track).

For us, it was analogous to keeping a pony in a tiny dark stall for months and then letting it loose in a sunny hay field. “Finally,” I thought. “This is where we belong. On a derby track. A real one. … this is bigger than I thought.”

You can see I wore boot covers (99 cents) and they got torn to shreds. Photo by Eric Baseler, summer 2011.
You can see I wore boot covers (99 cents) and they got torn to shreds.
Photo by Eric Baseler, summer 2011.

But, like snakes and thistle in a field, with freedom come certain dangers.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Go early, be prepared
If you can’t lay a permanent track, you’ll need your rope/tape measure and chalk each time. And 20 minutes.

Also be prepared for the public. People see a bunch of women (or men, or children) on skates and get curious. If you have fliers for your next event, have some on hand. And if you have someone off-skates, maybe assign that person to be the spokesperson for the day.

2. Outdoor surfaces can hurt
Skin peels off your body so much easier on concrete, tar, tennis court. Make sure to wear capris, even if it’s hot. Bring the first aid kit every time.

3. They can hurt your skates too
If you’re a toe-dragger — even an occasional toe-dragger — outdoor surfaces can also rip your leather right off your feet. (No, not literally) You might invest in toe guards or duct tape.

4. New wheels not necessarily a necessity
If you’re on an even-enough surface, like a basketball court or a tennis court, you probably don’t need to spend another $30-100 on outdoor wheels. Outdoor surfaces like that do wear down any ridges you might have on your wheels, so if you have a boner for perfect, new wheels, well, you probably already have outdoor wheels and I don’t know why you’re reading this. If you’re frugal and don’t care too much if your wheels are beautiful, they shouldn’t affect them too much.

It’s a basic lesson in friction — gritty surfaces are tackier (hence why they excoriate you with ease). So, on a super-friction court, you should consider using a less sticky wheel. Outdoor wheels (the stickiest) are a poor choice for a basketball or tennis court, in my opinion. Sticky on sticky.

That said — if you’re on a super shitty surface, like bumpy tar, you will want outdoor wheels.

Personally, I used my old indoor wheels for outdoor derby, my outdoor wheels for skating outdoors for leisure and my indoor wheels for indoor derby.

5. You’ll need more water than you think
I drank more than a gallon once. Your teammates will forget their water. Also bring sunglasses and sunscreen.

6. Know when the sun goes down
If you’re skating in the evening, you might want to check when the sun goes down. And prepare, accordingly. I wrote about the Maui Roller Girls’ set up — they practice outdoors at night. Also, if you’re playing on public space (like a high school basketball court), check your city’s ordinances about noise, curfews, etc.

*Such tight walls.

5 reasons you should outdoor skate this summer

The prospect of outdoor skating can be scary, but you should do it anyway. Here’s why:
1. It will make you better at roller derby.
Skating outside is the only reason I have a solid “c cut” (quick cut to the in and out. Often used in drag-out hits or to gain position in a one-on-one scenario). A year ago I couldn’t plow stop with confidence, and when you’re headed down a hill toward a road with busy traffic you have a few options (if you’re not good at stopping):
A. “Cut” down the hill like a skier.
B. Fall
C. Die
I also learned lessons in stability (Hello rocks, sticks, cracks in traffic, sand …) and awareness (And hello to my friends: “dog who hates roller skates,” child, traffic …) and jumping (fuck you, broken pavement, those bumpy sewer tops, dead squirrels …).
Stopping, awareness, stability, agility? Yeah, that’s helpful.

SUMMER!!!!!!
SUMMER!!!!!!
2. It will even you out.
When you outdoor skate — unless you’re that girl who is trying to do derby drills on a fake track she made in the high school’s bumpy parking lot* — you can even out your muscles. Long, straight paths, hilly trails, they challenge your muscles more equally than skating counterclockwise for hours.
3. It can be good for your league.
Wear your league shirt. Bring fliers. Go to a bar or cafe in your skates when you’re done. Be nice. It’s amazing how many people want to chat about the sport when they see you in skates.
4. You’re too pale.
I said it.
5. It’s fun.
Duh. Grab a friend. Go for a skate. Get some sun. Crash, exhausted on someone’s lawn (STAY OFF OF MY LAWN) and remember why you love roller skating.
*Totally not me, guys