By Alex Dixon
The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.
Women clad in fishnets, American flag pants, paint-covered shirts, helmets and kneepads whiz around the skating rink, smashing into each other’s hips, often sending someone onto the ground.
A man in the crowd on the outskirts of the rink, standing up from his lawn chair, yells “knock her out,” and some five referees blow their whistles intermittently.
It’s Sunday evening at Wheels Fun Park in Durham. It’s the Chapel Thrillers vs. Raleigh Ruckus bout in roller derby, one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
“(Roller derby) is like being in a blender,” said E. Smackulotta, a Carolina Rollergirl, and tonight’s mascot dressed as a Lucha libre wrestler.
Roller derby, a contact sport played by two five-person teams roller skating around a track, has grown immensely since its “re-birth” in 2003.
According to Roller Derby Worldwide, there were about 50 active amateur roller derby leagues in 2006, all for women, and all in the United States. Now, the site lists 1,515.
Elektra Q-Tion, a member of the Carolina All-Stars, said the leagues now encompass women and men, sometimes together in co-ed teams.
“Derby has come a long way,” she said.
E. Smackulotta said the rebirth of roller derby occurred in Austin, Texas, around 2003 with the Texas Rollergirls.
Celia Fate, a now retired Carolina Rollergirl, brought the sport to the Carolinas shortly thereafter, and the Carolina Rollergirls were formed in 2004.
When the announcer asked the crowd how many were attending for the first time, a majority of the crowd raised a hand.
“A lot of men bring their wives or girlfriends,” Elektra Q-Tion said. “Then the women get into it more than the men.”
Smackulotta said the league is currently working on getting a venue in Chapel Hill, after having venues in both Durham and Raleigh, with the league’s home location being Dorton Arena.