By Susan Tileston
If you’ve heard a strange buzzing sound in the Annapolis Royal area, it isn’t the invasion of killer bees or an attack of tinnitus: it’s the sound of women’s flat track roller derby skates on pavement. Nova LeFrance is putting the Riptide Rollers through their paces.
The women all have derby names: Nova is Misty Achin', Kelly Lane-Yaverbaum is The Kelinator, Blue Ray is Mama Dread, Angela Chute is Hip Check Her, Sarah Snider is Karma KaPow, and Shauna Sproule is Heavenly Smash. Five of the women have children and their average age is 30.
On Mondays and Fridays, they lace up their four-wheel skates, Velcro on knee and elbow pads, slip on wrist guards, bite down on a mouth guard, and zoom around an oval of traffic cones set up on the basketball court at Bishop’s Park, Round Hill or the parking lot at Champlain Elementary School.
This evening, rolly bags with pads, water bottles, plus toys and snacks for some of the team’s kids are scattered around the edge of the Bishop’s Park court. The children are alternately watching their moms and playing. Nova LeFrance, founder of the Riptide Rollers, puts the team through a series of warm-up exercises; leg lifts, squats, all done while skating around and around the course. ‘Keep moving, keep moving,’ Nova encourages them. Next they must skate without lifting their skates off the ground. Groans are heard. ‘That’s hard!’ ‘That hurts!’ Nova repeats her mantra: ‘Keep moving!’
Loves the Sport
Before moving to Annapolis Royal with her family a few years ago, Nova skated with the Rain Valley Vixens in Abbotsford, BC. She loves the sport and decided to organize a team here. ‘We are six now, but we’re hoping to recruit more at our first indoor rally in Lawrencetown on October 14.’ She says to compete you need at least 14, so team members who skate for two minutes at a time, can spell each other. The goal is for two ‘jammers’ to skate through the pack of opposing team skaters.
Right now Nova is concentrating on skills development; how to stop, fall, light blocking. ‘Before you can compete, you must pass a written and physical skills test from the Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby International.’ The team pays dues to cover insurance costs and indoor rink rental. Skates can cost from $150 to ‘the sky’s the limit,’ laughs Nova. ‘Pads, helmet, mouth guard will add up to another $100.’
Too Much Fun
After a five-minute rest, Nova puts them back to work. Two by two, they must skate as many laps as possible around the course in five minutes. Twenty-five laps is the goal. It’s a warm, muggy night, and 17 laps seems to be the limit. No one seems to mind; this is too much fun.
The Riptide Rollers website says their mission is to ‘grow the sport of Roller Derby and provide women with a wickedly fun way to stay active and healthy.’ Which is exactly what these six women are doing tonight.
If you would like to try this sport and are 19 or older, you can come to the Lawrencetown Education Centre on Friday, October 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. For further information, visit the website: riptiderollers.ca
Susan Tileston is a writer and photographer living in Annapolis Royal.