Upcoming bouts

Catch the next Lava City Roller Dolls home bout between the Spit Fires (their B-team) and Overbeaters Anonymous from Whidbey Island, Washington, on April 9 at Cascade Indoor Sports.

Renegade Roller Derby will face off in a black-lit bout against a mixed group of Oregon skaters April 23 at the Midtown Ballroom.

Parents helped their well-behaved children to hot dogs and soda before finding places to sit inside the cheerfully lit Cascade Indoor Sports complex. The weekend afternoon was a chance for loved ones to catch up with one another and relax.

Then the bad girls showed up.

Numbering 36, they wore purposefully ripped tights and scant booty shorts, meant to simultaneously attract and offend. Some smeared war paint beneath their eyes. Others festooned their lips and noses with metal rings and studs. They sported matching jerseys; their nicknames, emblazoned across their shoulders, broadcasted their affinity for concussing collisions and crass puns.

These were the Lava City Roller Dolls. Their A-team, the Smokin’ Ashes, had waited over a year for this rematch with the Shasta Assassins, who drove from Redding, California, just for the occasion.

Witnessing this rumble in the making, the parents’ and kiddos’ eyes grew wide — this is exactly what they came for.

Roller derby, one of the fastest-growing women’s sports in the world, is particularly hot in Oregon, where more than 10 leagues call home. The Lava City Roller Dolls, along with Renegade Roller Derby, a league that split from Lava City in 2006, are both celebrating their 10th seasons. The nonprofits are owned and operated by skaters.

Each is, however, devoted to distinct rules of play.

Renegade Roller Derby basically has no rules about rough play, punches or tackles — think hockey with no penalty box.

Lava City’s members — and any of their opponents for that matter — abide by a standardized set of rules established by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, or WFTDA, the international governing board that oversees 355 leagues and 81 apprentice leagues worldwide. Lava City joined in 2008.

With Oregon’s own Portland Rose City Rollers as the reigning WFTDA champs, Bend derby skaters have a viable team to emulate and an undeniable pride about participation in their sport.

Scoring points

Toward the end of the hourlong bout divvied into 30 two-minute jams, the Smokin’ Ashes stood to lose to the higher ranked Shasta Assassins, who previously trounced them by 45 points. Amanda “Anya Az” Lena, 35, a member of the Smokin’ Ashes, careened around the 88-foot regulation track.

The yellow star on Lena’s helmet identified her as a point-scoring jammer. With less than a minute remaining, and with her team behind by 6 points, she skated counterclockwise around the track while ducking and dodging the four Shasta Assassins blockers charged with preventing her from earning a point.

In accordance with WFTDA rules, blockers cannot grab or throw a jammer down, but they can hip- and shoulder-check as forcefully as they want.

Lena burst past the opposing jammers like a running back. Two Smokin’ Ashes blockers, Carolyn “Elviramental” Nesbitt and Kara “Nori Spekt” Madison, corralled the Shasta Assassins jammer with their bodies. Ducking low and skating fiercely, Lena racked up points while the remaining seconds ran out. When the buzzer sounded, Lena had forged a 3-point win for the Smokin’ Ashes: 181 to 178.

People in the stands erupted in cheers, and sidelined teammates rushed to Lena, who quickly disappeared in the helmeted, rolling mob.

“That was absolutely spectacular, absolutely the best feeling in the world. It’s exactly why I play roller derby,” Lena said, emphasizing the integral work of her blocking teammates and her coach’s timeout management, which afforded her a breather — and a chance to eject a couple of snot rockets — before that crucial final jam.

Spectators mixed with the sweaty, bruised and slightly bloodied skaters. Smokin’ Ashes member Justine Carpenter, 35, a mother of four, said she felt good. Beyond the victory, the highlight for her came when she “blew someone up” — derby parlance for hitting someone really hard.

She stood next to her son, Connor, 12, who said he attends Lava City bouts “quite a bit.” Justine’s husband, Erik “Icky” Carpenter — whom she met through derby — refereed the bout as one of the nonskating officials. Their daughter scored the junior match reserved for 10- to 17-year-olds. It preceded the headlining bout.

The physicality of roller derby helps Justine better appreciate her son’s love of football because they both love a good collision. Erik Carpenter, 42, said he has enjoyed a lot of sports, but he’d never come across anything like roller derby. He’s played on Oregon teams for five years. He describes the sport as “NASCAR, football and roller hockey hodgepodge-ed into one.”

Contrasting derby and football cultures, Carpenter said football people are focused on performance, appearance and being “that standout person.” While skaters want to stand out in derby, he continued, “there is a lot more emotional support to bring the bottom up,” a quality he chalked up to the sport being mostly governed by women who make it “more genuine and forthcoming.”

“The thing about roller skating is there aren’t many places in town to do it,” he said. “Everyone ends up crossing paths, so there is no room for bubbles” in which resentment might fester.

Local turf traded amicably

Renegade joined what is now a nine-league network that spans Arizona, California, Oregon and New York and prides itself on a no-holds-barred policy. Because of the Renegade and Lava City’s different playing styles, they don’t compete against each other, yet they often mix while trading floor time at Cascade Indoor Sports and the Midtown Ballroom, the sole local venues for practices and competitions.

Nearly 20 Renegade coed skaters — three of them men — scrimmaged across Midtown Ballroom’s cold, ruddy floor.

Wearing a pink, furry monster cover on her helmet, Amber “Juke N Off” Stubbs, 34, new to the league, was all grins when she and Renegade president Elizabeth “ER” Rose entangled, toppling to the floor.

Stubbs said she was impressed by her teammates’ toughness. She most admires Andrea “Strike Tyson” Fox, whose fingernail was ripped off when she got smashed into a wall during a recent bout. Clearly in pain, Fox nonetheless persuaded her coaches to let her use the resultant adrenaline to score more points as a jammer.

“That was really cool,” said Stubbs, a U.S. Marine veteran who moved from Hawaii to Bend with her retired Navy SEAL husband. She said she joined Renegade because she loved roller skating as a girl. The pink on her helmet is a nod to her inner-child, and to how derby is play. This attitude was inspired by an American prisoner of war she met who wears a Mickey Mouse wristwatch to remind himself to enjoy the time he has left.

Rose, a league member since 2007, said hitting people on the track — and getting hit back — can be a positive and necessary release.

“Violence is in society,” said the hospice caregiver and Montessori teacher. In derby, however, skaters learn how to balance between chaos and control, something Rose said has helped her remain cool-headed when encountering potentially violent confrontations outside the track.

As the Renegades’ practice wound down and they removed their skates and pulled on coats and hats, another group of skaters donned helmets and adjusted kneepads over snared fishnet stockings. It wasn’t the result of a venue mix-up — the Renegades let Lava City round out the last half of their two-hour floor rental.

A few Lava City skaters greeted their Renegade friends — Madison, the blocker who played a key role in Lava City’s recent victory, was no exception. A friend of Rose’s, the two chatted warmly. They had met at the Central Oregon Pride festival where they raised funds by selling shaved ice and hot food in neighboring booths. “Roller girls love to talk derby to each other,” Rose said.

Reached by phone days after her bout-winning jam, Lena “Anya Az” — sound it out — was still buzzing with excitement.

“It was such an amazingly proud moment for my team and for me,” Lena said. “But I was just happy to be able to win with my fantastic best friends.”

—Reporter: 541-617-7816, pmadsen@bendbulletin.com

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