ROLLERCON. The very name strikes excitement and trepidation into my rookie heart. Once a year thousands of rollergirls converge on a hotel/casino in Las Vegas for a full five days of hard-skating, hard-partying fun. As a Rollercon virgin, I didn’t know what to expect, but I expected to be blown away, and certainly I was. Luckily, I was accompanied by two of my fellow Rockin’ Rollers, AeroDiePanic and Withering Tights.
As a pasty white girl from London, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the Nevada desert in mid-summer. The temperature during the day reached 109 Fahrenheit, and standing outside was like being inside a blinding sauna. Luckily, the inside of the Riviera hotel was air-conditioned to the point of hypothermia.
Secondly, Las Vegas itself is a truly surreal place. It’s a huge city in a barren desert where you can pay to go to the largest strip-club in the world, gamble all your money away, and follow it up by shooting real machine guns for fun. Add to this a few thousand rollergirls, 7 full-size tracks, 900+ classes, seminars, open scrimmages, challenge bouts and stalls selling everything derby-related that you can possibly imagine, and WFTDA-sanctioned bouts featuring some of the best skaters in the world, and you’re getting close to imagining how awesome an event this truly is.
I booked a ticket last minute and missed out on the coveted ‘MVP’ passes that guarantee you first choice of classes with the likes of Suzy Hotrod, Quadzilla, Frida Beater, Demanda Riot and Georgia W.Tush, so I thought I might not have as much to do as everyone else. WRONG. At 9am on my first day I was scrimmaging with girls from all over the States, and I managed to get last minute tickets to classes with Smarty Pants and the Rev.
The Rev’s class was held at the same time as, far away in the UK, girls from the Rockin’ Rollers were skating in the Olympic opening ceremony. I asked the Rev if I could say something and gave a little speech about it to the whole class, who all applauded and cheered. It felt like the whole derby world was proud of our girls!
After a couple of skaters partied a little too hard, I was able to jump into a challenge bout between the Fisters and the Shockers and helped the Shockers bring in a victory (thanks for having me!).
I also got to watch some of my absolute derby idols skate in an epic bout between the Vagine Regime and the Caulksuckers. I was also able to learn everything about the history of roller derby from Kasey Bomber, author of Down & Derby.I shared a room with two lovely ladies from the Sis-Q Rollerz in Oregon, who made my stay a total joy and explored neighbouring casinos with me as the sun set over the Red Rock Mountains. I went to the Riedell booth and Sin City Skates and tried on every skate-boot that would fit on my narrow little feet. Seeing the costumes people came up with for the Luau party on Friday night proved that no one can dress up like a rollergirl.
Very memorably, I got to meet the charming Jerry Seltzer, whose father Leo invented roller derby on the back of a napkin, and was the first person to encourage women to skate competitively. Thanks, Leo. And thanks, Rollercon, for making this virgin determined to come back for more.
You can read more about my thoughts on Rollercon on my personal blog, here.