So, you’re just starting out. You’re a little shy, and you’re intimated by the giant girls on skates that have been slamming each other around for at least a year. You don’t want to look stupid by asking what sort of things you will need to tryout. It’s tough starting out, trying to figure what you need, how the game works, what kind of maintenance you’re going to need to keep up your equipment, whether or not you’ll even make a team, and whether or not you will get killed as soon as you touch the floor. We’ve all been there. We’ve all sweated at the thought of trying to become a part of this tight knit group, and how to fit in without looking like an idiot. Well, here is your guide to picking what’s right and acting like you’ve got it going on.
Here’s the low down on the safety gear you will need. In one fell swoop, this can be an expensive excursion, but it’s one that you will need to do. No gear, no skating, that’s the unfortunate truth. Let’s start with the top. The helmet is one of your best friends. This doesn’t mean you won’t need to bring headache meds to practice, but it does mean you won’t need to leave practice in an ambulance. Go to a skate specialty shop, or find a good online dealer. It’s best to find someone in the area so that you get the right size (or if you can try someone else’s on for fit). Here’s the deal with intra-league games, you may not want to get a particular color until you make a team. Go with black, or something simple. You don’t have to pick a skating helmet there are other helmets like motorcycle and hockey helmets that have been used, but we will still recommend sticking with simplicity.
If you are looking to save a few bucks, which we all are, you can get your pads in a pack. Packs usually come with elbow pads and knee pads, and sometimes you can find a pack that also includes wrist guards. If they don’t include wrist guards you can get them separately. We have found that wrist guards are pretty similar overall so find the best deal you can and run with it. Pads also have to fit correctly so that they don’t slide off or cut off your circulation. Again, it’s better to get your first set at a store you can walk into, but you can also try on someone else’s for an idea. More than likely you’ll find the better price online. Let’s not forget being a savvy shopper. Take the price you found online and bring it into the store with you see what kind of deal you can get. The most important set of pads is the knee pads. Many girls suffer injury to their knees every year. It can take you out of the game, or it can take you out of derby permanently. We suggest that if you get the cheaper knee pads get an extra set of volleyball pads in the near future to wear underneath of the skating pads.
Lastly, you will need a mouth guard. You can usually get these at any sport shop. Some of them come with a $10,000 dental warranty. Fill it out. This warning comes from experience. There aren’t a whole lot of problems with mouth guards, but a broken tooth can become quite expensive (especially if you don’t have dental insurance).
You haven’t skated since middle school, right? You remember the rental skates, and you may have even gotten a pair of those tall art skates for your birthday, but most ladies roll in a different style (unless you’re Goody Two Skates). When looking for your first pair of derby skates, you’ll usually be asking for speed skates, or even jam skates (both of which are very similar). With this being your first purchase, and with the possibility that you might skate for only one year, again we would suggest finding the cheapest route. When you get more familiar with skates, their maintenance, and the sort of things that work best for you, that’s when you should invest in some that will last.
Right now, only buy these from a skate shop so that you can make sure they fit. If they don’t fit correctly you could cause yourself an unnecessary amount of blisters, or your feet might slide around so much you’ll be skating inside your boots more than you will be rolling on the floor. If you are in need of skates that are not made of leather, there are options available so find out what your skate shop carries. You should probably get yourself and extra pair of laces, because they will break. To save the life of the boot, purchase some toe guards. These aren’t necessary off the bat, but come in handy later.
Okay, here’s the mother of all issues. What kind of wheels do I need? Well, usually the wheels that come with your skates are not going to be the best choice. Here’s the confusing kicker, blockers and jammers tend to need different types of wheels, and it also depends on what type of floor you are skating on. Some will give you dirty talk and tell you the harder the better. Some will give you baby talk and tell you the softer the better. Some will tell you that extra grippy is the way to hold tight, and others will tell you that slick is smooth sailing. Here’s the deal, talk to your favorite skate shop attendant, or search online for the different brands, hardness, and grippyness. Get an idea of what everyone is talking about, and then decide for yourself. There are wheels that work better on different floors, so you should definitely keep that in mind, but overall you will know what you feel most comfortable skating on.
Where is the derby specific wear? What do I need to look like a real derby girl? Does my butt look cute in this? All questions we asked ourselves in the beginning, too. Don’t worry about the boutfit that you will need once you make the team. The wonderful ladies on that team will tell you how and where to go about getting the materials needed. For your own personal search, there are a few derby websites that carry derby clothes, most of which are cute shirts that have skates on them, but they’re not necessarily skating clothes. When you’re looking for clothes you need for practice or general derby style, right now it’s an ‘on your own’ sort of search. Usually there is a big difference between the clothes you pick out for a Monday night practice, and the ones you pick out for a big promotional event. So, don’t buy that $50 dollar skirt to sweat in at practice, save it for the parade next weekend.
For practice wear, go to a sports specialty store. If you are more comfortable in skirts, check out the tennis section. Most of the skirts have built in shorts, so you don’t show your ass every time you fall down. Also, don’t forget to wear tights with your skirts. No matter how many times you can get by without the back of your thigh sliding ten feet across the floor, trust me, it will happen eventually. Tights are your friend, they will be good to you. If you’re more of a shorts person, this should be easy for you to decide which ones your more comfortable in-cheerleader or basketball shorts. Again, you may want to employ the tights rule here. Lastly, if you’re a pants wearer, go with the yoga pants. They’re tight, but the thick waistband will help keep you from looking like one of those ladies who tried really hard to fit into some spandex shorts. As far as tops go, just pick what you’re most comfortable in, t-shirts or tanks, whichever you’re okay sweating profusely in.
For all other roller derby occasions, or times you want to look like what we call “roller hookers,” there are many choices. (Please take roller hooker lightly; there is modest dress for these occasions as well.) There are a few derby-owned Web sites that have lots of choices including sourpussclothing.com and rinkrashskatewear.com, and when you’re looking for those socks (knee high, thigh high, baseball) that you’ve seen around try sockdreams.com. Other cute choices can be found at cool shops in your area, independent businesses always carry treasures that you can’t find elsewhere. Lastly, check the mall. You can find lots of cute skirts and dresses at some of those one off stores. Otherwise, just shop where you usually like to shop and you’ll find something that will be wearable on skates.
Don’t forget to bring everything you’ve got to workshops, practices, tryouts, etc. A group of 40+ women that are five feet taller than you on skates, marked with bruises and cuts, whispering quietly on the side, and talking only to each other can be one of the scariest things you’ll have to endure. Screw the falling, what if these girls think I’m a hack? The truth is, they are just as nervous about meeting you. It’s hard to let someone into this group that has worked very closely and very hard to make the last season flow smoothly. These ladies have bonded and have attached to each other in a way that you will soon be doing. Yes, they are more comfortable on their skates, but usually they just want to help you feel the same way they do. Yes, they have some bruises and cuts that look they’ve sustained some serious toughness, but you will soon look just as bad. Most likely they are whispering in the corner because they think you are really good, and they want to draft you for their team. So take all that intimidation and turn it around into one huge block during scrimmage. Show these ladies that you aren’t afraid to fall down (because, trust me, you will fall down), and take your derby loving ass to the limit!