Photo Credit: One Rock Studio
Aussie Susy Pow made the transcontinental move from the land down under for a chance to play roller derby in the U.S. She told us how the sport differs across the world and why she’s convinced she needs to stay in America to reach her derby goals.
Chief Gladiator: Susy, how are you liking it in America? When did you move here?
Susy Pow: I moved here in December of 2012, so it’s only been about seven months, but so far it’s great. I miss being close to the beach, but I’m enjoying playing roller derby here so much that it’s not so bad.
CG: What part of Australia are you from and what did you do there for a living?
SP: I grew up in Sydney, but before I moved here I was living in Newcastle, which is a couple hours north of Sydney. I was in business school when I moved, so I put it on hold for now, but plan to finish.
CG: When and how did you decide to move here?
SP: Last July I went to Las Vegas for a roller derby convention and met a guy who I ended up dating. We were playing in a co-ed scrimmage and I knocked him over—that’s how we met. I had been wanting to move to the U.S. and since he and I were still together, I decided to move to Baltimore.
CG: Where does roller derby fit into the picture? How long had you played in Australia and were you sure you wanted to play here?
SP: I moved to Baltimore, where I play for the Charm City Roller Girls All-Stars. I wouldn’t have even considered moving to a city that doesn’t have roller derby, that’s how intrinsic it is to my life. I’ve been playing in Australia since September of 2009. I had watched some of Charm City’s bouts online and contacted the interleague liaison about playing for the all-star team. She was really receptive and excited at the prospect of me moving here to play, which made things really easy.
CG: Did you have to try out when you moved here?
SP: I had to meet a couple testing requirements, but there was never any thought in my mind that I might not pass the tests. I’ve heard that try-outs and waiting periods can differ between leagues, so I’m glad Charm City was so welcoming.
CG: So how does derby differ here in the states?
SP: We follow the same Women’s Flat Track Derby Association rules in Australia, but only WFTDA members can compete in playoff and championship games and there are only 197 members. The training here is much more intense with higher expected skill, effort and buy-in to the team. Here we train at least three or four times a week and workout outside of derby. Charm City’s coaches are regularly paid to travel and coach other leagues, including those in Australia. The quality of play in the U.S. is much higher— I feel 180,000% more challenged here.
CG: What about the social aspect? Does that differ at all?
SP: The involvement of the players is much higher here than in Australia. There, most of the money we raise comes from ticket sales, whereas here we do a lot more community outreach through fundraisers and also a lot more team bonding. Tonight we have a bar crawl and it’s the fourth one we’ve had since I’ve moved here.
CG: Sounds like it’s a great way to make new friends.
SP: Actually, I don’t even really have any friends outside of roller derby! As soon as I moved here, the team organized a sleepover and a thrift shop outing so that I could get to know everyone. We were friends instantly and I feel completely comfortable with every team member.
CG: Is derby as popular in Australia as it has become here?
SP: Not quite, but it’s getting there. It’s just a bigger microcosm here, but that could also be because there are a lot more people here and the game has a longer history in the U.S. than in Australia.
CG: What are your roller derby goals?
SP: One of my biggest goals since I started playing derby has been to continue to improve and play at increasingly competitive levels. When I started skating in 2009, I had been basically sedentary since the age of 12, so to discover that I’m actually really good at something physical is motivating. Back then, seeing things that top level skaters did seemed unattainable to me because I had never skated before, but I’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time.
CG: Do you feel that you will be able to play at competitive enough levels back in Australia?
SP: Not right now, which is why I may end up staying here. I have to decide at the end of this year what I’m going to do because I put business school on hold, but I really don’t see myself being able to improve with such leaps and bounds back home because I thrive on being able to pull from other people’s skills.
CG: We saved the most important question for last. Did your derby name make the move with you or did you leave it behind and start fresh with a new one?
SP: Right back in the beginning I had a derby name, but quickly discovered it was already taken by a retired skater from Texas and uniqueness was more important at that time. So within a few months of joining Newcastle Roller Derby League, I dropped the derby name and went with my real name. Skating under your real name seems to be becoming more prevalent. There are three skaters on CCRG’s All-Stars who skate under their real names, but I didn’t feel like I was leading any movement when I swapped back in 2010.