Roller derby is back, and the Eastern Shore is now in on the act. The Salisbury Roller Girls will be happy to show you why this strange-but-fun skating extravaganza full of “bouts” and “jammers” and “sasquatches” and “grand slams” now ranks as one of the fastest growing sports in the country.
Over the last dozen years, more than 1,300 leagues have started up in the U.S. and around the world—not bad for a sport that had been dead for some three decades before that. Best of all, this unlikely resurrection tends to be a DIY affair graced with a self-deprecating dose of the punk aesthetic.
That’s definitely the way it works in Salisbury. Founder Eva Paxton (aka Buster Skull) started up the Roller Girls by spreading the word on Facebook. The skaters she coaxed into the fold range in age from early 20s to early 50s—in fact, there’s a mother-daughter combo on the roster.
Bouts are held in a strip-mall martial arts studio. Promotional posters are the epitome of anime cool. What fun that the Roller Girls have rounded up a roster of sponsors and advertisers that run from tattoo parlors to crab shacks to the local chapter of the Jaycees and the iconic Old Bay seasoning company.
The Roller Girls operate two teams, the Salisbury All Stars and the Wicomikazis. Founded in 2010, they’re now rated as an “apprentice” program in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the official governing body of the sport.
Last time the wife and I took in a bout, in August 2013, Wicomikazis captain “Copper Feel” was the star of the show. The wily jammer (bottom photo, with the jammer star on her helmet) ducked, dipped, slipped, and shimmied her way through the defense time and again, piling up a slew of points for the good gals as they scored a comfortable victory over the New Jersey Hellrazors.
The skaters’ “boutfits” that night boasted fishnet stockings, lime green leggings (and hair extensions), bandana scarves, and more fun oddities. A couple of hundred people attended, and I can’t imagine anyone went home disappointed. The two of us were perched rinkside the whole time, right up on the action, and we’ll definitely be back soon.
FOOTNOTE: What’s up with the crazy names? Back in the ’70s, the once proud sport of roller derby had descended into a sort of sad distaff version of pro wrestling. Bouts were fixed, and fights were staged. It was all a sham of a show, built for cartoonish TV broadcasts. Today, the sport is dominated by homegrown teams and amateur athletes focused on having fun, hitting hard, and skating to win. But one remnant that remains from the old days is the glorious nicknames. Go to an SRG bout and you’ll be cheering for the likes of Marv E Lust, Big Booty Judy, Obsessa Combustive, and StoneWall Jaxie. Roller derby fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photos courtesy of a certain Jill Jasuta!