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.
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