There’s a somewhat of a juxtaposition in the actions on the floor of the Oak Harbor Roller Barn Thursday night.
Graceful rollerbladers glide, seemingly effortlessly around the ring. People around them cheer them on and encourage their efforts. And then later those same people clash, aggressively blocking one another and sometimes knocking each other to the floor.
The Whidbey Island Roller Girls are gearing up for their 10th anniversary season of roller derby. And they’re always looking for “fresh meat,” a derby label that they assure is a term of endearment.
An informational meeting about the team’s next boot camp will be held 6 p.m., Jan. 19 at the Roller Barn.
The camp will be broken into two four-week sessions, said Boot camp Coordinator Whitni “Wild Sockeye” Schurr.
The first four weeks are aimed at beginners. Anyone of any gender is welcomed to come learn the basics of skating with a group of experienced trainers. Registration is $50.
“It’s really empowering to get out and learn this new skill,” Schurr said.
Those who wish to learn more derby-specific skills may move on to the next session. To compete in sanctioned events, the participants must be adults who identify as women, according to the Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association.
Men may practice with the team and referee bouts.
The Roller Girls are committed to more than just the sport, however.
“It really becomes a lot more like a family and an awesome support network,” Sponsorship Chair Mary “Chefzilla” Rawlins said.
The 53-year-old doesn’t think age is an excuse to not join either. She joined at 45.
Schurr said people at all fitness levels and skating abilities are welcomed to join the boot camp. She and the other trainers will make sure the “newbies” are conditioned properly, because no one is trying to argue the sport isn’t difficult.
“It’s an absolutely incredible workout,” said Rawlins.
Once a year, the association requires players to demonstrate certain abilities before they may compete in sanctioned games, called bouts. Thursday night, the team was practicing one of those requirements, which is to complete 27 laps around the ring in five minutes.
This is one of the most challenging requirements, Rawlins said.
On her first attempt, she fell short of the final lap by just 10 feet.
The team practices twice a week for two hours at the barn, and the sessions are fast-paced. Teammates encourage each other to stay fit and exercise outside of practice as well, she said.
The team is sponsored by a number of small businesses in the community and its members try to stay involved, Rawlins said. In 2014, the group created a scholarship to support students graduating from Oak Harbor High School who planned to pursue a degree in the sports medicine field. In 2018, the team named the scholarship after its “number one fan” Jake Smith, who passed away.
Rawlins noted a song called “Roller Derby Saved by Soul,” when describing the team.
“And for most of us that is accurate,” she said in a text message. “It creates a tight circle you can always count on and builds self confidence.”
• The boot camp informational meeting will be held 6-7 p.m., Sunday Jan. 19 at the Oak Harbor Roller Barn. More information can be found at wirg.org