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The Roller Derby, Austin Style

Aug 29, 2008
Ten women go whizzing past wearing wild fishnet hoses. Their colorful get-ups also include helmets and kneepads and flying scarves and the skates on which they are racing around the oval track.

Elbows fly, legs lock, bodies go careening and sliding along the masonite track. Occasionally two shapely lovelies go at each other, swinging hard and fast, falling to the ground, rolling and grappling as the beer-soaked, capacity crowd roars in approval. It's Sunday afternoon at the roller derby bout; roller derby with a Texas twist.

Austin, the city that likes to keep itself weird, has given birth to yet another entertainment craze that has gone national. All-girl roller derby, loosely fashioned after the co-ed roller derby teams of yesteryear, took root here in 2001 with the founding of the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls. A couple of years later, most of the teams in the league spun off to form a second league, Texas Rollergirls, due to a difference of opinion about how the original league was managing things. In addition, the Texas Rollergirls play on a flat track, rather than the traditional banked track that the Lonestar Rollergirls prefer.

Volunteerism and inclusion are two of the philosophical and practical pillars of the success of this Austin-born movement. The women risk bodily injury for the thrill of extreme sport and the glory of winning; they don't get paid. Proceeds go to local charities and to the expense of running the league. Texas Rollergirls, in particular, are fiercely committed to their slogan, a league for the skaters, by the skaters.

Both leagues boast an independent, tough-girl spirit and are proud of the way their movement grew from their own sweat and muscle to grow within a few short years into a national phenomenon as all-girl roller derby leagues have sprouted up all over the country. Several documentary films and one reality-style national TV show have helped propel the popularity of this fast-paced, contact sport for women. The leagues in different cities have begun to hold inter-city and inter-state competitions and a national tournament as well.

The sport has been hugely successful in Austin as both local leagues constantly draw sell-out crowds. Enthusiasts swill ice-cold cans of Lone Star and local bands fill the arena with loud, raucous Austin rock and roll. Fans of the flat track version of the sport love to sit in the first two or three rows where the chances are likely that they'll become part of the painful action when some blocker or jammer gets knocked off the track-there are no rails or barriers-and goes sailing into someone's lap.

Rough and tumble roller girls with names like Raquel Welts, Misty Meaner and Lucille Brawl plaster and pummel each other all through the four 20-minute periods of the game. By day, they are moms, special ed teachers, maternity nurses and art school graduates. On the track though, they assume their alter egos and put on a show that one of them, Melissa Joulwan (Melicious), describes in her book, Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track, as a "dazzling carnival on wheels"a sport of speed-skating and brutal body checks, played out against a backdrop of head banging rock. The spectacle drives fans into a hormone-and-beer induced frenzy.

AE channel produced a 13-episode television program in 2005 called Rollergirls that was about the TXRD league, their skating and scrapping escapades, and their life off the rink with boyfriends and bosses. The website for the show describes the sport as raucous bouts that combine fierce competition with jaw-dropping outfits and crowd-pleasing personalities.

The rollergirls impact has even had an effect on the local Austin real estate market. Texas Rollergirls marketing director Rebecca Guitierrez (RadioActive) said that we've had many folks move here because of the derby movement.

That's because it's not just about the thrill, the sex-appeal and the colorful, carnivalesque atmosphere of the sport. It's the community-based, locally controlled, creative and free-wheeling spirit of fun and competition that sets Austin apart from so many other cities in the country, that has been attracting people to come and settle here for decades.
About the Author
Escapeso Realty helps investors looking for Austin Texas real estate . They provide a graphical search of the Austin MLS along with a blog with updated trends and info on Austin real estate.
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