Demolicious – aka Rebecca Ninburg, co-founder of the L.A. Derby Dolls (pictured below) – has been a roller derby pioneer since 2003, and today there are more than 400 women’s roller derby leagues across the country. On the eve of the Red Bull Banked Jam in Chicago against the Windy City Rollers, Ninburg sat down with us...
Why do sportswomen become roller derby players?
It’s based on merit. It all depends on your skill set, your natural ability, and your level of commitment. It’s a place to learn about and express yourself – you get an alter ego. When you see people in their daily lives and their daily clothes, that’s not the person you know on the track – you’ll only know these incredible athletes. There’s a personal strength you get out of this sport. I have seen that in these girls; they get this confidence.
So you present young girls with a new role model?
That they don’t have to grow up a certain way, to play a certain sport? It’s redefining what it means to be feminine… That you can be beautiful, that you can be strong, that you can hold your own. I’m excited to see this next generation and what happens with them. The sport really will grow into its own when the “juniors” grow into it.
Who are your favourite players?
The sisters Psycho Babble and Deranged from Rocky Mountain. Their parents owned a roller rink, so they have this speed and agility and are able to adapt to strategies on a dime. Bonnie Thunders from the Gotham Girls is also breathtaking. She’s a former figure skater. In our own league, Krissy Krash (pictured at left) is phenomenal as is Stefcon, Laguna Beyatch and Chargin’ Tina.
The Derby Dolls play on a banked track, which is the original track of the 1970s, but 98% of the leagues now play roller derby on a flat track. What are your thoughts on that?
Flat and banked track can coexist beautifully. Flat track has progressed so quickly just because there’s so much competition. When flat track is played really well, there is a tremendous amount of excitement in that. There really is, like jaw-dropping.
You play the Windy City Rollers this weekend on their home turf, but it’s your home track…
Chicago’s going to be amazing. I’ve got to hand it to them; it takes so much courage to skate the 4-½ foot incline of the banked track, and the timing of the jam is different. But when you have a team that’s played together for a long time and they know each other so well, you just never know what you’re going to come up against. They are REALLY good skaters. We have the utmost respect for them.
There is A LOT of passion for roller derby. You have an extensive volunteer community – different people built the risers, built the track, painted the walls, do your sound and lighting…
You can’t do this alone. They believe in what we’re doing so much, and the best thing you can give someone is purpose, ownership, and motivation. These guys are taking ownership and making it ten thousand times better than I could ever do it.
With everything that’s happened in roller derby, can you believe how far you’ve come?
My naiveté was my greatest asset. If I had known what it would take to do this, I would never have started. I’ve always said that I’m just going to go with it. If it keeps getting better, I’m not going to stop. And it hasn’t stopped getting better.
- Red Bull Banked Jam event info
- Official sites for the L.A. Derby Dolls and the Windy City Rollers
- Watch the Roller Rager girls Down Under