In an unassuming warehouse in Dennisport, women are doing push-ups on roller skates. If you think that's tough, you should see them skate. Roughly 100 fans did just that on Saturday night when the Salty Dolls of Cape Cod Roller Derby held their first home bout after years of travel competition.
Cape Cod Roller Derby is the brainchild of Lynne Duquette Perera, AKA Lulu Nori Morse, who, with Talia Arone, founded the league several years ago.
“I loved roller skating when I was younger, [and] had been hearing about roller derby,” said Duquette Perera. “I thought it would be really cool to have an outlet, something active for women of a certain age. It was like a dream that I thought would never happen but that I would think about.”
Then, after a particularly frustrating day of parenting 5-month-old twins, Duquette Perera posted on Facebook about the need to start a derby league on Cape Cod.
“My friend Talia jumped on it and was like, 'Let's do it,'” Duquette Perera said.
The next day Arone booked skate time with the Hyannis Youth and Community Center on a rink with recently melted ice.
“None of us had any idea what we were doing,” said Duquette Perera. “We didn't know anything about roller derby. We didn't even have roller skates.”
But skates were bought, women started skating in circles, and Cape Cod Roller Derby was born.
Cape Cod Roller Derby is flat-track roller derby. Bouts consist of a series of jams in which a specified member of a team, known as the jammer, works to get past the rolling crush of skaters (teammates and opponents) so that she is clear to take a spin around the track. Each time around and every person passed generates points. Though it sounds simple, it's not, and it must be seen to be fully understood.
In its earliest days, skills clinics were the main CCRD focus, teaching women how to skate before derby basics. Guest coaches, including some from Mass Attack Roller Derby in Fairhaven, offered instruction, and the team and its experience grew, with players adopting derby names to suit their on-track personas.
Now, new players get started at meet and greet events at the team's home rink in the Cape Cod Community Media Center on Shad Hole Road in Dennisport before becoming “fresh meat,” non-competitive players learning the key basics. From there, players advance to the competitive levels Two, where the hitting (checking) starts, or Three, full-fledged competition, based on their comfort and skill. Saturday night's competition was Level Three, highly charged, physical, and intense.
It was also momentous as it marked the league's first-ever home bout. Though they've been practicing in the warehouse space for years, it took time to secure permissions to hold a formal bout there, which meant the Salty Dolls were basically a travel team. As fan interest in the league grew, a home bout was finally arranged.
On Saturday night, the Salty Dolls hosted the Western Mass Nyads in a festive and celebratory opener.
“Finally we were able to have a trial game and it worked, so I think we'll continue to have home games,” said Duquette Perera.
The event further heightened interest in the league.
CCRD Vice President Grace Becotte, AKA Darthritis, said meet and greets have been increasingly popular.
“I think we had 20 people at the last meet and greet who wanted to join, and the one before that was over 20,” said Becotte.
Meryl Vujs of Harwich, AKA Nan Suckit, has been with the league almost since its inception.
“I heard about it on Facebook and I started stalking them, and crashed their practices until they let me in,” she said. “It's fun and active, a great way to work out, and it's a great way to meet other people, lots of big, strong, independent women.”
Fellow Harwich resident Raya Marshall, AKA Mini D Molish, was initially hesitant to join, but was encouraged by her husband. She's now a top jammer with the Dolls.
“It came easy to me so I was blessed with it,” she said. “It's definitely scary, but I'm confident in myself as a skater that I have control over my body.”
Marshall said that confidence translates off the track, as well.
“The confidence just carries over into my personal life because I'm good at something and it makes me feel good as a person and builds my self-esteem up,” she said.
Emily Hill, AKA Bitter Knitch, was struggling with postpartum depression and needed an activity that would get her out of the house and interacting with other women.
“I started fresh meat, like, 'This is cool. It's a lot of exercise' but I didn't think that I was going to stick with it,” she said.
The more she skated, the more she wanted to skate.
“I'm in this for the long haul,” she said. “I love it so much. It's been the force that pulled me out of problems.”
Hill said the appeal stems from the physical skating and the women with whom she competes.
“The team aspect is pretty incredible,” she said. “It's excellent. And also, it's exhausting. It's physically challenging and I've never had something like that in my life that pushes me.”
The camaraderie is an aspect of CCRD Duquette Perera is deeply inspired by.
“Some of the girls who are here don't have family on the Cape. These other girls become your family,” she said. “To me that's the coolest thing. I think it brings some pretty awesome people together.”
“You meet the people here you wouldn't necessarily meet anywhere else,” said Becotte. “You come here and they're like, 'Hey! We're your people!' It's awesome.”
It can also help with body image issues, since team members are varying sizes.
“You learn to love your body,” said Duquette Perera. “Before I had my children I was always really tiny, and I hated my body. I was very critical of it. Now I weigh more and I've never loved my body more and I know it's because of roller derby. I'll put on booty shorts and I don't care.”
“It's not for everybody,” said Hill. “But if you have any sense of adventure it's really empowering and liberating. You get knocked down and you get back up again, over and over again and you just get stronger.”
For more information about Cape Cod Roller Derby, follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Capecodrollerderby/?fref=ts.
The Cape Cod Salty Dolls take an introductory lap around the track at the start of their first home bout on Sept. 17. KAT SZMIT PHOTO
|Jammer Raven Pain gets sized up by the competition. KAT SZMIT PHOTO|
Jammer Cha Cha keeps an eye on her opponents as she circles the track. KAT SZMIT PHOTO
|An official keeps an eye on the action during a jam. KAT SZMIT PHOTO|
Raven Pain in the jammer position gets set to start a bout. KAT SZMIT PHOTO