It’s Saturday night in Historic Filipinotown. Over 1400 fans have gathered in a converted warehouse to watch skaters battle it out in banked track roller derby. Unlike the popular roller derby spectacles of the 70s and 80s, the current derby revival focuses more on athletics than theatrics. There is nothing scripted, rehearsed, or fake about the full-contact sport as it’s played today, and most of the skaters have injury lists to prove it.
The sold-out crowds are drawn to the fast-paced bouts where the scores often climb into triple digits. Spectators can also enjoy half-time musical performances by local bands, or stroll through Vendor Village – a collection of booths offering derby merchandise, alternative attire, and a range of eclectic food options. The charismatic personalities and irreverent spirit of fun make this the quintessential sporting event for people who usually shy away from sports.
The LA Derby Dolls league was founded in 2003 and has grown to five teams, including the all-star LA Ri-ettes, and over 150 skaters, refs, staff, and volunteers. For the uninitiated, the game of roller derby consists of several 60-second jams where two teams each have four blockers and one jammer on the track at a time. To score, the jammer must break through the pack of blockers, skate ahead of them on the track, and then skate past the pack again, earning points for each opponent passed.