Getting up to Speed: Derby Gear

Chief Gladiator:  So you want to play derby and are ready to assemble your first gear kit.  Part of a solid start and strong derby experience comes down to selecting the right equipment.  What do the sport’s experienced athletes recommend?  We asked blocker Lauren “Shadow Cat” Salvador of the Electrocuties and the Denver Roller Dolls all-star travel league, the Mile High Club, to give us a lowdown of what’s in her bag.


SC:  Our uniforms are matching tops with our names on them and leggings. The price for jersey top can range from $30-70 depending on the quality of the material.  For travel teams, you need both a home and away jersey, so the price can really add up.  The most recognized brands in the derby world are Derbyskinz and Iron Doll.


SC:  Helmets usually run about $30-40.  Most skaters go with a skateboarding type helmet, although some prefer a hockey-style helmet as it offers more protection. You can take the lining out to wash it. Triple 8 is probably the top selling brand.


SC:  I wear a Protech (now called SISU) mouthguard. It’s super light weight and I can talk and drink water without ever taking it out, which is very important. Most veteran skaters that I know wear them.


SC:  Of all the pads, knee pads are most important because you fall on your knees most often.  For kneepads I prefer the Killer 187s, but there are a lot of good brands out there. They can feel bulky to new skaters and make your crossing feel kind of weird, but they’ll protect your knees and that’s the most important thing.  I’ve been wearing mine for over a year and haven’t had any problems.  Some people are harder on their gear than others, so it really varies on how long it takes to wear them out, but you can always duct tape them together.  Pads give off an offensive odor, so I add some vinegar to the washing machine when I clean them.  And in between cleanings, I beat back that smell with an Odor Gladiator in my bag.  It costs around $100 for kneepads, elbow pads and wrist guards.


SC:  Skates vary widely in price depending on customization and quality of materials.  Here’s what makes up a roller derby skate:


SC:  Boots have become very high-tech.  You can get boots that, when heated, mold perfectly to your feet.  These are more expensive, but you have fewer problems with chafing and blisters because they fit so well.  Generally, when you’ve been playing for a long time, you want to invest in nice skates.  Bont and Riedell are really well known for their skates and often sponsor players.  There are even Bont and Riedell all-star teams.  A pair of high quality boots like these can last for years and are between $200-400.


SC:  While skaters prefer lightweight plates, nylon and plastic plates often don’t hold up very well, especially with bigger skaters.  Personally, I wear the Sure Grip Avenger Magnesium plates because they are both lightweight and durable.  They cost between $160-180.


SC:  The wheels you put on your skates will depend on the surface you’re skating on, the position you play and what type of performance you’re looking for.  If you’re skating on a sticky surface like a skate court, you’ll want harder wheels to increase speed.  And if you’re competing on a harder surface like concrete, softer wheels with grip are usually better.  “Grippier” wheels are best for beginners, as their muscles may not be conditioned to keep them planted firmly on the ground as they skate.  I wear Atom Omega 2.0s and absolutely love them, but I skate on skate court most of the time.  For a wood or concrete surface, I would probably go with something slower like a Poison wheel.  There is a store called Derbyville near where I live in Denver that has a wheel library.  Derbyville allows you to rent wheels for $10 until you find ones that work best for you.


SC:  Your local skate shop can help you pick out a bearing.  Just make sure to clean them every once in a while, or if you’re lazy like me, give your friend $5 and have her do it for you!


SC:  These go on under your knee pads and help hold them in place, because nothing is worse than your kneepads slipping down when you fall. They’re about $20 but a worthwhile investment.  I’ve also seen some girls wear volleyball kneepads under their derby knee pads for extra protection.

Foot booties

SC:  I also wear eZeefit booties (as do many of my teammates) to reduce rubbing and blisters.


SC:  Finally, adding insoles to your skates can keep your feet more comfortable and keep you going longer.

Chief Gladiator:  Well there you have it!  Thanks for sharing this great info, Shadow Cat!  We suspect wearing quality and well-maintained gear helped contribute to your 2012 accolades as Most Feared Skater and Bruising Altitude MVP!  Good luck this season!

Photo Credit:  Pixel This Photography

Guest Post: Something About Stink






Queen Elizabeth once declared, “I take a bath once a month whether I need it or not!” I think everyone in our modern age goes “ewwwww” after reading that sentence, but in the Elizabethan era she was considered the epitome of cleanliness because most people bathed less than ten times a year, if they bathed at all. Then in 1605, Francis Bacon wrote that “cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.” That quote became the oft-repeated, “cleanliness is next to godliness” line that we have all heard since childhood. Ever since then, being clean was very much the thing to do.

So why, oh why do athletes love their stinky gear? They know it is harboring bacteria. They know how unpleasant it feels to put on cold, sweaty equipment. They know it is unhygienic, and can cause staph infections. So why do they do it? Simple – there is something about stink.

I challenge you to find one high schooler who will go to school in stinky clothes, but they will go to practice and open up an equipment bag that is so rancid smelling that passing birds fall dead from the sky. Then they put on that foul smelling gear and play! They know it stinks to high heaven yet they still put it on. Why? Because there is something about stink.

As a former lacrosse player I know all too well the allure of stinky gear. It is a badge of honor, a right of passage, and an on-field weapon. I used to brag that my gear smelled so bad that opposing players would not try to dodge against me, for fear of the stench. One day I went to get my gear bag out of the garage and it was gone. My mother had had enough. She took my shoulder pads, arm pads, gloves, and the bag and stuffed them into the washing machine. I was devastated. Plus, all of my gear felt weird on my body after being pummeled in the dryer, which just added insult to injury.

The next day I dragged my bag to practice, extremely unhappy that all of my gear felt alien on my body. I dressed for practice, started moving, and then something strange happened. I forgot that I was wearing clean, non-smelly, and ill-fitting gear. Eventually the equipment conformed to my body again, and I was playing as well as I usually played. The lightbulb clicked on in my head, I could play with clean gear and still be comfortable!

However, it took some trial-and-error before I figured out the golden rule of equipment washing: air-drying. There is something about putting gear in a dryer that makes it feel funny, especially the gloves. I have found that I can put my shoulder and arm pads in the dryer without ill-effect, but my gloves need to be air dried in order to preserve their “feel.” Last is the helmet, which usually got either a healthy helping of Febreze or wiped down inside and out with Lysol disinfectant wipes.

Over time, practicing and playing with clean equipment became the normal thing to do. I just had to overcome my initial resistance to the idea before realizing that wearing nasty gear made about as much sense as walking the school hallways in clothes from the bottom of my hamper.

To the parents - If your child is hesitant about cleaning their equipment, reiterate to them that playing sports is a privilege, not a right. In order to play they must also be able to keep their own gear clean and smell-free.

To the players - Is it a pain to wash your equipment? Yes. I’m not going to try and spin that chore as being pleasant. Want to know what is more unpleasant? A six-week staph infection that will not go away and requires you to shave your leg to keep the medicated bandage in close contact with your skin. That happened to me my junior year of high school and that really stunk.


Gordon Corsetti is a guest blogger from Atlanta, Georgia. He blogs for Atlanta Youth Lacrosse whenever he is not officiating.