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Wenches’ Guide to Starting Roller Derby

Starting up in Roller Derby can be a daunting experience, we have all been there.
After weeks of waiting you’re finally going to get to give Roller Derby a go and to say you’re nervous is an understatement.
It’s hard enough to walk in the door, let alone strap eight wheels to your feet in front of a room full of strangers.
Well don’t panic! This is the Wenches’ guide to surviving your first few weeks in training!

Protection

Safety is the most important part of derby.

Roller Derby is an extreme sport, we would be lying to you if we said you are never going to fall over or get hurt.

No Protection = No Skating.

These are the things you’re going to need, start up can cost a bit, but we think you’re worth it. Let’s start at the top and work down.

Helmet

This has to be a skating one, any colour is fine. It should be a good fit on your head; you don’t want it to slip about. So if you can get to a skate shop to try one on, then this is the best option.

Mouth guard

You can pick up a cheap mouth guard  in any good sports shop. This will do to get you started, but the cheaper guards can be difficult to get a good fit and you’ll be constantly taking it out to speak. If you can invest a little more, you’ll find the fit more comfortable.

The Sisu mouthguard is one of the more expensive ones you can buy but it will give you a better fit, allows you to speak and a lot of the Wenches have one.

Elbow Pads

You can pick up a decent enough pair of elbow pads for around £12-15. They should be snug on your elbow but not so tight they cut of the blood supply to your hands!

The Anarchy elbow pads are used a lot by the Wenches and the newer versions have a small hole over the elbow crease to give you better ventilation.

Wrist Guards

It’s important to invest in a fairly decent pair of wrist guards, you’ll be surprised how many times they save you from breaking your wrists, especially in the first few weeks of training, and these can range from £10-20. DO NOT buy Anarchy Bulletproof Ramp Gloves, these wrist guards are not protective enough and are just meant for recreational skating.
Most Wenches start out with the Anarchy wrist guards and then some move on to a more expensive version, such as 187 Killer wrist guards.

Knee Pads

You’ll be spending a fair amount of your time on your knees in roller derby. Your coaches will drill you on landing safely on your knees and it will be your most common floor-body impact zone, so a good pair of knee pads will be a good investment for the future.

Prices range from £20-60 depending on upon make. The dearer the pads, the more protection they will give you, but you will be fine spending £20 on a pair of pads, just try before you buy and please don’t buy the pads you get in a pack for recreational skating, your knees will suffer for it, and you’ll soon be replacing them.

Anarchy knee pads are pretty good as a starter knee pad and 187 Killer Knee Pads & Smith Scabs are the top end knee pads, to which most Wenches upgrade.

Gaskets

Gaskets are designed to be worn UNDER knee or elbow pads, not instead of. You need that hard shell of a knee/elbow pad to protect you when you fall and to give you slide. Gaskets provide extra padding and protection under your pads. So do not buy these to wear as pads, but you may eventually choose to buy them for under your pads

Skates

We could go on forever about the different type of skates and skate setups. When you first start skating it’s a minefield. Do you go for a vinyl boot or leather? What plates should you decide on Nylon or Alloy, 45deg or 15 deg? Then there are the wheels, hard, soft, indoor or outdoor?

Everyone will have a preferred skate set-up and when you’re first starting out, you have no idea what set up is going to suit you.

Well don’t panic!

We recommend that you try before you buy, ask if you can have a go on someone’s skates if you like the look of them. Try two or three pairs on.
If your budget is limited then you’re better off going for a pair of Riedell R3s or Suregrip Boxers.

These are an ideal starter skate and will last you a good while, you can then decide at a later date if you’re after something a little more fancy.

We would advise against going for anything cheaper than this, as you’ll just be wasting your money, and will very quickly find it difficult to nail those Derby skills in an off the shelf fashion skate.

The Riedell R3 is a great starter skate, perhaps more suited to those with a slightly narrower foot.

The Suregrip Boxer is also a cracking starter skate, and is slightly wider than the R3, but always try skates on before you buy, as you’ll be in them a lot.

Wheels

To start with, stick with the wheels that come with the skates, you’ll soon decide whether you think they are too slippy or grippy, it’s a personal preference. It also depends on what type of floor you’re skating on. If you’re on a super slippy floor then you’ll want a softer wheel, but if the floor is super grippy then a harder set up is for you. Skates range from 80a (soft) right up to 100a (hard)

If you’re going to get in some extra practice outside, and we strongly encourage you to do this. You’ll want some outdoor wheels to change over to. Skating on tarmac can ruin indoor wheels really quickly. You can pick up a really cheap pair of soft outside wheels online, and it will save you money in the long run.

We could start getting all technical about wheels, but we won’t.

If you are buying skates, they will come with wheels that will be OK for starters. Wenches are usually willing to lend out spare wheels for you to try!

If you have skates already, you may want to invest in some better wheels. Lower number wheels are quite soft (eg. 89a).

Higher number wheels are harder, it means you can go a bit faster on them, but they can be more slidey. ts all personal to you, you’ll have plenty of time to decide what you like, and half the fun is finding out yourself.

What to Wear

Derby girls are renowned for wearing outrageous “bout-fits”. You know the type of thing, tiny little skin hugging hot pants, stripy knee high socks, fishnet tights, and punk tops. These things are great; it’s a big part of what roller derby is all about, the chance to express yourself in ways just not possible in the normal outside world! You’ll find your own style, you’ll put your own stamp on something and whatever it is, believe me, these girls will support you 100%, because that’s what the wenches are all about.

For practice however, wear what you’re comfortable in. A good pair of lycra shorts or leggings is a good bet when you’re learning to skate. If your going for shorts that are shorter than your knee, we would strongly suggest you wear a pair of tights under these, as they will save your skin from being removed when you slide across the floor on your thigh. Trust us, we’ve all been there and tights not only make your legs look great, they are also your friend! The future Dogs amongst you may not want to wear tights so the Dogs would recommend cargo/surf shorts or jogging bottoms.

Tops should be something you’re comfortable in, you’ll be getting very hot and sweaty so a vest top is always a good choice, but if that’s not your thing, then an everyday short sleeve t-shirt will do fine.

Yourself

Roller Derby is a tough physical sport, sure we will start you off with a gentle skate up and down the hall, but really soon you’ll be asking your body to do things it hasn’t done in a long while (or ever), and you’ll be having great fun doing it.

Eating well and hydrating your body before practice is really imperative, don’t leave it until the last minute to eat, you’ll be seeing it again on track really soon if you do. Try to eat a couple of hours before practice, and make sure you drink plenty of water beforehand, you’ll also need to bring water to practice as it’s thirsty work.

Roller Derby is a great sport to be involved with, not only are you going to get fit learning something really, really cool but you’ll also meet great people, who like to spend as much time together off track as they do on. We are always looking forward to meeting new members and remember, no matter what skills we have today, we all started off somewere and most of us spent a lot of time on the floor.

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