When I think Portland sports, I don't think of the Sea Dogs, the Pirates, or the Red Claws. No, I think of Roller Derby. It's been around a while now, with strong and agile women (with alter-egos like Grim D. Mise and Pixie Quickenwitty) tearing up the Expo floor on skates, music bumping above the screams of hundreds of people. Completely bad-ass, and nevertheless ladies.
But if, like me, you've been afraid to actually try it, get excited. Maine Roller Derby's flirty younger friend has come to town with an all-ages, all-skill-level taste of the real deal (plus the best workout you've ever had in your life) — plus less risk of actual injury.
In Derby Lite, you still get the healthy, motivating, and judgment-free all-female community. But you get the common sense (and maybe some restraint) that comes with a group whose motto is "Fun and Fitness for Women Old Enough to Know Better."
Started by a retired skater in Chicago in 2007 as a less competitive, recreation-based derby league, Derby Lite has expanded nationwide and attracts women from teens to senior citizens, who learn to skate and play the game just a like a real Derby Girl, perfecting moves likes T-stops and Swizzles and even taking on more contact (like blocking) in mini-bouts.
Derby Lite started here in Portland with more than 30 women in mid-January, the result of efforts by Lisa Bassett and Diane Kibbin (a/k/a Olive Spankins and Vexatious D), both former MRD stars and trainers for the league who also started the local incarnation of the increasingly popular Punk Rope jump-roping workout series. Both are yet another option in the ever-expanding universe of alternatives to "regular" exercise classes.
Bassett's extremely encouraging: "Derby Lite is for literally everyone. No matter how hard it is at first, how good you skate or don't or how in-shape you are or aren't, if you trust yourself, work hard and let your team-mates support you, you can, and will, excel," she says.
I began Derby Lite six weeks after having my first baby and was sure I would be the lamest person there — with 30 extra pregnancy pounds, plus the absence of any real skating skills. But after our first class — early on I crashed into the person in front of me, earning a grapefruit-sized thigh bruise that lasted three weeks — I looked around and found myself among friends I had never before met, all of us skating from scratch.
There was a handful of retired (or injury-recovering) MRD skaters easing their way back into the sport, and a clutch of fit 18-20-somethings with dreams of being "real" players, regular women like me, and an impressive number of women over 50. (Among the best skaters in the bunch, a woman who admits to being "60-ish.")
After crashing, falling, picking each other up, and bonding, we've become a team. In a world with a stereotype of grown women getting no more rowdy than a DVR'd episode of Ellen, I'm now part of a woman-gang, and it's pretty much the best thing ever.
If you're up for it, beginner classes start on March 27 and run Tuesdays for eight weeks. (Intermediate and advanced skaters have a separate session, running Sundays starting March 25.) Sign up soon; space is going fast. Get in touch online, and get rolling!
Derby Lite | beginner classes $96; intermediate/advanced $128; skates and safety equipment extra | tinyurl.com/DerbyLitePortlandME