Roller Derby League Skates to Success

Since 2005, Roller Derby, touted in the 1930s as “sports entertainment” has been making quite a comeback. Many cities throughout North America have roller derby teams. The sport attracts women who enjoy life on the edge.

Laura Garro is the Public Relations Director for Fort Lauderdale’s local chapter, Gold CoastDerby Grrls. She takes the contact sport, and its message of “grrl power” seriously.


The group, originally known as the Broward County Derby Grrls, was formed in December of 2007.

“But, we had so many girls coming from Miami and Palm Beach that we changed our name in October of 2009 to Gold Coast Derby Grrls, said Garro, whose feisty player name is Carnivorous Licks. “I’ve been with the team since the very beginning. We started out with 15 girls, then 30, then we dwindled. It’s a fun sport, but it has a high turnover rate, because of injuries.”

Injuries aside, there is a also high turnover due to the commitment that the sport demands. Teammates pay dues and there is no corporate sponsorship to pay for the girls.

Currently Gold Coast has 40 skaters, with a B team called the Beachside Bombshells. Additional enthusiasts, in the form of referees and volunteers are a big part of team life. While that number seems high Garro points out that teams in LA have more than 100 members. On June 6 they are hosting a recruitment event at the Gold Coast Skating Rink, on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale.

“The team is pretty gay, but we don’t discriminate,” Garro laughingly told SFGN. “We have four couples on the team, but it’s for any women that want to skate, gay or straight are welcome.”

She says teammates are great friends. “We get on each other’s nerves some times, just like sisters. But we’re all good friends because our love for roller derby binds us.”

While most sports operate on a limited, roughly three-month season, derby lasts for 11 months, from January to December. So if you become addicted to the sport you won’t have to wait too long to strap on your skates.

“We skate about 8-10 home games and about 6 away games. This year we will be attending ECE [East Coast Derby Extravaganza] which is a three-day derby event,” said Garro. “In addition to the ECE we’re also going to Oklahoma City & Panama City to play.”

According to the ECE website the sport will draw together 900 women this year, more than 85 leagues, 47 bouts, or matches, and will utilize three rinks over the weekend of June 25, next month.
Roller Derby originates from Leo Seltzer, a former vaudevillian. He owned cinemas and hosted dance marathons in the 1930s. After learning about the new fad of rollerskating he decided to create a Transcontinental Roller Derby.

Using a banked, as opposed to flat, rink he invited teams to skate the 3,000 mile equivalent distance from New York to California. Team members had to have at least one member on the rink at all times. Soon after, a journalist approached Seltzer about the derby’s potential to become a contact sport.

Rules were devised, with early games broadcast on CBS. A roller derby bout consists of 30 minute sessions, split into game times called a jam. There are eight players at the front of the columns of skaters, who are supposed to block the jammers.

The jammers, denoted by a large star on their helmet are supposed to skate through the pack. They get points every time they legally pass a member of the opposing team.
However, the sport is – as stated above – all about grrl power. Players are therefore allowed to block opposing jammers with their hips, shoulders and “the booty.”
“The booty,” by the way, is the official name for the derriere as utilized in roller derby.

Each Gold Coast Derby Grrl has a profile on their website. They seem to be serious about one thing: fun. Carnivorous Licks has a clever name, and with fellow teammates like Kitten Not Submitten’, Spontaneous Combustya, Juana Puff #420, Kine Lee Killz, and Shreddie Mercury; clearly, they are a likeminded bunch of women…or should I say, grrls.

When asked how she would describe the sport to someone she met at a party, interested in joining she did not hesitate to excitedly respond, “Oh, this is a full contact female sport, with probably the greatest group of women you will ever meet.”

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