Wheels of Fury
Story by Catharine Lo
Photo by Matt Mallams
Rainbow stripes and leopard print. Lacy skirts and fishnet tights. Hot pants on hellions. Roller derby girls—like their uniforms and their names (like Miso Rowdy and Slam Musubi)—are at once sweet and extra spicy. Collideascope, captain of the Voluptuous Villains, compares the sport to slam dancing. “It’s kind of like that,” she says of its no-harm-intended, full-contact nature, “but on roller skates.”
The Villains, along with the Mischievals and Maui’s Crazy808s, are the three teams that comprise Pacific Roller Derby. Unlike the staged bouts that once took place at Honolulu Civic Auditorium in the ’70s, PRD action—every skid, crash and tumble—is real and unscripted. Now in its third season, PRD is sanctioned by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which includes 400 teams nationally. The season runs through mid-July, pitting PRD teams against newly formed leagues on Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island. For bout and scrimmage locations, check www.pacificrollerderby.com.
For those who don’t know the rules (and haven’t seen Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, Whip It), each team’s designated “jammer” tries to score points by passing members of the opposing team on a narrow concrete track. The other skaters, of course, use their bodies to block the jammers, causing the inevitable wipeouts and pile-ups. (Elbowing is illegal, but as the announcers put it, “What the referees don’t see won’t hurt them.”)
“There’s lots of big girls who can put a world of hurt on you,” says newcomer Five Feet of Fury, lifting her broken arm as evidence. “Even though we hit hard, we’re still friends off the track.”
“All our girls have all their teeth,” jokes Mercy, captain of the PRD All-Star team, which travels to compete in Mainland bouts. The tall, proficient skater was a crowd-pleaser on opening day, blazing through the pack throwing two-handed kisses and cross-stepping around the tight corners. The key, she says, is putting aside the fear of falling. Protective armor—elbow pads, kneepads, mouth guards and helmets—makes that easier.
Is her moniker meant to be ironic? “Actually,” the merciless skater chuckles, “Mercy is my real name.”