Roller derby is a female dominated, full contact sport, played on roller skates.
First described to me as ‘like rugby on roller skates’ the sport has been gaining momentum outside America and Bury St Edmunds hosts one of only two co-ed teams in Britain.
I travelled to roller skating rink, Curve Motion, in Lark Valley Business Park, Bury St Edmunds, to see what it’s all about.
First up was the gargantuan task of understanding the sport’s rules.
Put as simply as they can be, each team has 14 members, five of which will be on the track at any one time during a match, known as a bout.
Teams are made up of four blockers and a jammer.
The jammer tries to skate through the pack before lapping the other team’s blockers, scoring one point for each person they lap.
Meanwhile the blockers attempt to prevent the opposing team’s jammer from making their way through the pack, while clearing the way for their own jammer.
So that’s that and if it sounds pretty violent, it is.
However safety is paramount and all players insist if your team is playing well and tactically there’s no need to resort to force.
Upon arrival the first job was to get kitted out.
Fifteen minutes later I was wearing knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, and a helmet and was ready to learn how to fall over - as if I needed help.
The trick is to fall on one or both of your knees, so the pads absorb the impact and you’re in a good position to get back on your feet quickly.
Charlotte Warboys, 27, a member of Bury St Edmunds team, the Blue Thunder Rollers, explained the appeal of the sport.
“If you want to get fitter, you want to be part of a team, have a laugh, and do something different, it’s great,” she said.
Roller derby is played predominantly by women, although its popularity with men is on the rise.
At the Blue Thunder Rollers’ training sessions men and women train together, however they will bout separately.
It takes at least nine months for players to learn the skills to pass two exams and be ready to take part in bouts.
Next up for me was learning to skate ‘derby style’.
This involves skating while crouched over with a wide gate aimed at lowering the skater’s centre of gravity, making them more stable.
Despite the reasoning, which seems sensible, at first crouching threw me dramatically off-balance, resulting in flailing limbs as I tried to stay upright.
Despite the odd embarrassing moment, when I marvelled at how far it’s possible to skid on a highly-polished surface, the training session was great fun.
Skating is good exercise and learning tricks and moves is very rewarding.
Since forming in April, the Blue Thunder Rollers have gained more than 50 members, with more joining each week.
Coach, Christian Gibb, said: “It’s one of the only sports that’s almost exclusively for girls, it’s full contact, it’s massive adrenaline.”
Danielle Taylor, 33, of Ipswich has also become hooked on the sport.
She said: “I’m skating which I love, the team, all of us together supporting each other, seeing people improve, It’s very rewarding and we’re having a laugh.”
The Blue Thunder Rollers train at Curve Motion on Monday nights.
For more information contact Phill Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org