Rip, ride and roll: Rollermania takes over San Marcos

Jammers+chase+each+other+down+the+stretch+of+the+flat+track+ahead+of+the+defensive+front+for+both+teams+July+1.+Photo+by+Jakob+Rodriguez.
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Rip, ride and roll: Rollermania takes over San Marcos

Jammers chase each other down the stretch of the flat track ahead of the defensive front for both teams July 1. Photo by Jakob Rodriguez.

Jammers chase each other down the stretch of the flat track ahead of the defensive front for both teams July 1. Photo by Jakob Rodriguez.

Jammers chase each other down the stretch of the flat track ahead of the defensive front for both teams July 1. Photo by Jakob Rodriguez.

Jammers chase each other down the stretch of the flat track ahead of the defensive front for both teams July 1. Photo by Jakob Rodriguez.

Claire Partain, Sports Editor

When she’s not Cinderella at children’s birthday parties, Sarah “Pixie Kixx” Lindsey likes to blow off steam by playing one of the most brutal contact sports around- on skates.

The Wimberley, Texas native is a core member of the River Rollers, San Marcos’ first and only roller derby team who had their first home mash-up of the season on Saturday, July 1 at River Ridge Park. The Rollers mixed with members of other local teams to form Team Fire and Team Ice, with Team Fire taking the win 195-131. The exhibition match was a chance for the Rollers to kick off their season, learn about their teammates and opponents and mix experienced players with beginners.

“We’re really just making a lot of derby friends right now,” Sage “Cherry Poppins” Richardson said. “That’s one of the coolest parts about roller derby is that we encourage everyone’s success, so more than rivalries we just have close friends.”

The Rollers got their start in 2017, with Poppins joining soon after the program began. While she and most other players say that their interest in roller derby stems from “Whip It”, the Ellen Page movie that is a staple to derby culture, Poppins heard about the Rollers through a friend and has become a key player to the team.

“After seeing (‘Whip It’) I told myself that when I got big, I would be doing this myself,” Poppins said. “Once I went to one practice, I bought all the equipment, didn’t even give myself time to think about it, and I’ve been here ever since. We’ve seen a lot of evolution, but it’s also been great to grow with this group of core members that have stuck with the program.”

As a pretty obscure sport to begin with, the team is always challenged with teaching members about derby in general. To get people interested, the Rollers have hosted boot camps, with some being at the most beginner level and a few being slightly more advanced. The team will teach anyone of any age or skill level as long as they can stay up on skates.

“We started the boot camp saying ‘you don’t even have to know how to skate, you can come as a bare bones beginner’, but I think that was a lot to take on as trainers,” Poppins said. “Now we ask that you have a very basic knowledge, where you can skate and stop on your own and then we can teach you from there.”

While the River Rollers is open to any and all members, the team also has tryouts for the traveling team, the Merciless Mermaids, every few months throughout their May-November season.

So what is roller derby? Derby is played on a track, with five members of each team on at once. Four players of each team, known as blockers, form a cluster, while the other two members, or jammers, begin at a starting line. The jammers then try to force their way through the blockers and around the track as many times as possible through two-minute sessions known as jams, while the blockers play offense and defense at the same time to keep their jammers in the lead.

Throughout all of this, the players are pushing, blocking and knocking one another over on skates, making roller derby both unique, exciting and full-on contact.

“It’s the most contact sport that I know of honestly,” Poppins said. “Then you add wheels to it and add that with the beautiful natural falls that come from being on skates, and it makes for a lot of fun.”
For Poppins, Stixx and others, the brutality of derby gives them a chance to leave the rest of their lives behind and get everything out on the track.

I think it’s so unlike anything you do in your normal life and that’s the absolute draw of it,” Poppins said. “I can come here and have a horrible day and all this emotional baggage and then I come here and I just get to wail on my best friends and everyone’s cool with it. It’s cathartic.”

Many derby players have families and day jobs outside of derby, including Altercation, a friend of the Rollers who plays for her own Houston team.

“When you put on those skates, you leave everything behind, with work, with family, all of it,” Altercation said. “I can definitely feel it when I haven’t played in a while.”

For many, derby is not only a chance to let out pent up aggression, but to develop a new derby persona as well. Each athlete chooses a derby name based off personality (Frida Loca), playing style (Strawberry STOMPcake) or puns (HoJ Simpson). The players stay true to brand, including Pixxie Kixx carrying Pixie Stix around everywhere and Cherry Poppins sporting bright pink hair. For Poppins, the persona eventually bleeds into regular life as well.

“Especially when you’re new to it, the persona is a way to escape yourself and come into something else and be really tough, and unapologetically so, and you have those separate lives,” Poppins said. “When you start to do it longer you realize you didn’t really need a persona. It was really yourself all along.”

As primarily a women’s sport, roller derby also gives women a chance to break stereotypes about what it means to be feminine and to appreciate the tougher side to their identity.

“We love when these little girls come out and watch us skate hard and fall hard and be proud of our bruises while still looking cool and pretty,” Poppins said. “For me, personally, it’s a lot about my femininity because I feel tough and strong and powerful in a way that I don’t get in society.”

The goal of the River Rollers isn’t purely physical, however. One of the team’s core values is inclusion, something that Pixxie Kixx believes is invaluable to the sport. Roller derby is a unique sport because all body types are not only accepted but also necessary, and the Rollers emphasizes that all ages are permitted on the womxn’s team.

“I appreciate how broad the inclusion is and I’m, always fighting for more inclusion, but at the same time I understand that sometimes women need a safe space,” Kixx said. “It’s all about a balance between what makes people comfortable and not alienating anyone. I’m ‘bitracktual’ so I also play on a coed team, but currently our team here is most comfortable with staying womxn-exclusive.”

As the River Rollers gain more membership and publicity, their fan base continues to grow as well. More fans show up to each home mashup, and their last Facebook live stream saw more than 1000 views.
“San Martians are the perfect breed for roller derby because it’s more of an oddball, underdog rebellious type of sport,” Poppins said. “I think this community is really just soaking this all up.”

Still, the Rollers hope to keep increasing in numbers and attracting new members to the culture of roller derby. Practices are open to drop-ins, and anyone can try out for the Merciless Mermaids.

“We welcome anyone who is curious to put on some skates and be your own hero,” Stixx said. “We will show you the ropes if you just come out and skate with us.”

For their next matchup, the Merciless Mermaids will travel to Rosenberg on Saturday, July 13 for the Yellow Rose Roller Derby. Visit sanmarcosriverrollers.org for more information on the Roller’s lineup, upcoming schedule or prospective membership.

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