When I landed on Icelandic soil last autumn, I had really heavy hand luggage with me — it was in fact way too heavy (but fortunately no one checked). I had squeezed in my roller skates together with kneepads, spare wheels, a mouth guard and wrist guards. And yes, people did stare at the big ice hockey helmet strapped to the outside of my bag, but that didn’t deter me, because there was no way I was moving to Iceland without my roller derby gear.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, it is a full-contact sport that resembles hockey and rugby, but without any ball. The two teams skate on an oval track, with one member of each team being designated as “jammers;” they wear a star on their helmets and score points by lapping the opposing team, one point for each player. Each team’s goal is to help their own jammer move forward while stopping the opposing team’s one by, for example, blocking them with their hips or butt (yes, this is a sport in which it is priceless to have a big butt and fast feet).
Broken bones, great celebrations
Growing up, people would always tell me that girls are expected to be sweet and kind, and that they cannot play in groups because they’ll always betray one another. On the track, however, none of that holds true, as my teammates will ask me to be more aggressive and tough. On the track I never have to excuse myself.
The sport can be brutal, with people crashing hard onto the floor and sometimes sustaining real injuries. I learned the hard way to always fall with my fingers folded, to avoid someone accidentally rolling over them (gah!). But no matter how hard you get hit during the match, the two teams will meet up and celebrate afterwards together.
Maybe that’s why I’m so in love with the sport—it creates a space where women can team up and support each other and escape the traditional norm of how women “should be”.
After one week in Reykjavík I joined up with Ragnarök, the Icelandic roller derby team, even though I didn’t speak a single word of Icelandic. One of the things that I truly love about this sport is the fact that you can go to another country where you don’t know anyone and still be welcome to practice with another team — even your rivals, if you ask nicely.
I’ve met a bunch of wonderful and crazy people, such as the two dedicated captains: “Lára Frost” and “Ice Sickle. I’d get hit hard by jammer “Sam Sational,” and spend the whole ride home with “Grim Creeper” discussing our training session. All roller derby players have their own nicknames and alter egos on track, it can be just for fun but also a way to be able to push yourself harder and let go off negative thoughts about yourself (My own altergo is “Robbin’ ya Hood” after my childhood idol).
And the good news is you can meet all of these wonderful members today as we face off against the Finnish team Dirty River Roller Grrrls. The match is at Hertz Höllin at 16:00, check out the Facebook event here.
Don’t be a stranger, it will be a kick-ass match.