Rollercon. It’s the Mecca of the Derby world. Holy Roller Land. Where all good roller girls go to get Derbyfied. It’s usually in Vegas, on the other side of the damn world. But this year it was also in Australia for the first time. Three days of bouts, bruises and bum bags. Let the games begin!
Welcome to Fabulous Caloundra
I landed on the Sunshine Coast with my league sisters on Thursday afternoon and checked into Sails Resort. It was a short 10min walk down the road to the Indoor stadium that was to be our home for the next 3 days. Sign up involved queuing to get your ID checked, signing your life away and receiving a pass and a bag of Crazy branded freebies. Obvious advertising aside, the orange wheel weenie that holds a full deck of eight was uber useful and I put my outdoor wheels into it straight away. Strangely though, almost all the Rollercon merch was leftover Vegas stock.
Considering there were 600 skaters coming to this event, I am baffled as to why Australian merchandise was not produced. The only merch created specifically for Down Under was a tee shirt/singlet. These sold out by lunchtime on day one when I haphazardly managed to buy the last singlet. I can imagine how many disappointed skaters missed out. Not to mention the fact that they were offering a grand total of nine Vegas branded fanny packs (yes, I know -bum bags Aussies) of which I also scored the last one thanks to a fast thinking league sister.
After sign up, we all went back to the apartments via Woollies to stock up on essentials and by the looks of it so did everyone else. The rest of the afternoon saw North street host to a constant stream of roller girls heaving lurid Crazy bags overstuffed with bottled water, Gatorade and beer back to their hotels.
DAY ONE: Tickets Please?
The sun comes up at arse o’clock in Queensland and then it obnoxiously reflects off the ocean front view that you thought would be a great thing to have. I swear I needed sunglasses to walk into the kitchen at 6am.
Day one began, not surprisingly with an enormous line out the front of the building as skaters waited to rush in and snap up tickets for the first classes of the day. Rollercon’s classes are organised with a rather frustrating ticket system. Skaters line up for a ticket up to two hours prior to the class. Once you have a ticket, you can wander off and look at other things and come back for the class. Which is fine but quite often tickets would become available for a class you wanted while you were in another class, bout or seminar.
As I discovered when I hauled arse from my first bout, only to find out that the tickets for Quadzilla’s Jam skate class had been handed out while I was bouting.
What does help, is to have already studied the schedule and made your own personal itinerary. Being the anal list maker that I am, I had also tried to write down an alternative class for each time slot so that if I missed out, I knew which track to go to for my second choice.
Anyway, ticket grumbles aside I did manage to do two classes, a seminar and a bout on the first day. Demanda Riot’s War Paint 101 was amazing. The highlight was undoubtedly getting to watch her put her infamous black and white paint on, which included teeth blackout. And the wonderfully honest story of how she unsuccessfully tried out with Rat City in full war paint before she was later embraced by Bay Area. We were then encouraged to paint ourselves up and I threw on my Princess Mononoke war paint and sadly had to leave 15mins early to make my bout.
By the late afternoon on day one I ventured outside to find my league sisters sprawled in the car park gutter eating $3 food truck slushies.
Two of them said they had scored the coveted Jam skate tickets I had missed out on earlier in the day and suggested I hang around the line to see if they’d let anymore skaters in. I figured I had nothing to lose (I was going to watch the class anyway). Fortunately – Quadzilla let another 10 skaters in, my lucky self included. So I did the class with my mother’s ‘you don’t get nothin’ if you don’t ask’ ringing in my head. Day one ended back at Sails with a rooftop BBQ, where my league traded opinions, sausages and the locations of all the freebies.
Day Two: Hitting the wall.
Having missed out on my first class the day before, I got up extra early to front the line. While queuing with the early birds I met Sia Hurler of Murder City Roller Girls. She was sporting a very impressive gravel rash/bruise that she got scrimmaging outside with Demanda Riot on day one. I suggested that she draw a trophy circle around it (something my league sister Crystal Diva did to her black eye at TGSS). So I found myself drawing on a stranger’s arse which I believe falls into the ‘only at Rollercon’ category.
My early bird idea paid off and by 9am I was gearing up for ‘Offense is Back’ with Smarty Pants which was a session about the Jammer Assist role. Smarty’s sincere wish is that it return to the game of Derby. Her coaching style is very clear and concise. She would always explain the ‘how’ as well as the ‘why’ of each skill and she also brought the group back in to make adjustments as we went along. We finished with a huddle and the war cry “Help a bitch out!”
By lunchtime I think my body had calculated how many hours of Derby and how many hours of sleep I’d had and decided to call my accountant. Although I was sorely tempted to go back to Sails for a nanna nap, I muddled on through the afternoon determined to get a ticket to It’s Tricky; Jumps, spins and whips by Dirty Deborah Harry.
My Derby sisters had given me the tip off at the BBQ the night before; ‘get to a class by Dirty Deb – she’s awesome’. What they didn’t tell me was that she was also a comedian. Seriously. Deb introduced herself and did about ten minutes of observational comedy which included a call back joke. It was funny but I did wonder how on earth she was going to get through all her skills. What I failed to realise was that we were dealing with a consummate professional. She got through the class; taught the techniques precisely and used laymen’s terms such as describing weight transference under your big or little toe, rather than talking about edges. She also reminded us to pay it forward when we got home and pass the skills on to our leagues.
When we had finished up with Deb, I wandered outside to discover my Queenslander sister Fifi Knuckles loitering in the car park in a tiger print snuggie, 2 bum bags and a pair of thongs. When I asked her why she was wearing a snuggie in Queensland she said she was cold. I, on the other hand was soaked in sweat, stinky and tired so I walked home to discover that drinks were on at our apartment that night. Many ciders and a couple of (hopefully) forgettable conversations later, I managed to crawl into bed at 2.30am.
DAY THREE: Just keep skating, just keep skating . . . .
After downing an aspro/ banana Up & Go combo, I got myself a ticket to Jammer Mind F*#k! with Trish the Dish. Unfortunately my epic headache pretty much turned it into RAh’s mind f*#ked. As it turns out, Trish was under the weather too so we scored a two for one deal with Ivanna S. Pankin teaming up to teach the class. Jammer intimidation techniques including ‘bitch face’ were covered, but the majority of the session involved pack techniques for making a Jammer lose the will to live.
By the end of the class my head had a distinct drumbeat and I stumbled into the toilets to change into a Steampunk costume for my second bout. In an uncanny turn of events our mash-up team worked together as though we’d been training for several months, rather than having met face to face five minutes ago. I donned the pivot panty (something new that I’ve been working on) and shouted at my Steam Rollers like I’ve never shouted before. They walled up, they regrouped and they hit on command much to my utter glee. The final score was 127-48. Our huddle war cry? 3-2-1 . . . toot toot!
The last thing I had on my list was Skate Maintenance with Trish the dish. Being a self-confessed gear geek, I was fascinated to hear her opinions on all things derby. Trish basically has my dream job. She tries out everything that comes through the doors at Sin City, recommending the shit hot and bagging out the shit not. In the seminar she delivered a lot of super practical, down to earth info on everything from identifying problems on your skates to what to keep in your Oh Shit Kit. I particularly liked the moment when she dropped her bearings into a cup of citrus cleaner, shields and all to the sound of an audible gasp from her audience. She then said what I had been thinking for a long time – don’t pull them apart, they’re a bitch to put back together’. Amen to that sister. I left with a lot of notes, a free t-shirt and the confidence to actually try cleaning my bearings in the future. On the way out of the stadium for the last time I walked past the above note stuck to the window of the reception desk. Roller Derby has gone a long way to restoring my faith in humans and I think little things like this summed up the general culture of our sport and the convention too.
What happens at the Drop Bear ball . . . .
The ball’s theme was simple; wear black and/or blue, don’t come nude and don’t cop out and wear jeans. Easy. This allowed for some fantastically creative takes on the theme. The Drop Bear Ball had gowns, xmas lights, bogan ballerinas, scary fairies, blokes in frocks, a blue m&m and a Navi from Avatar. And Fanny packs. Every girl and her quads had a bum bag for hands free action. Seriously Derby fashionistas – get on it, they are so hot right now.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
Would I do Rollercon if it returns to our shores again? Hell yes. It’s an incredible experience. Realistically to support the number of skaters that it attracts, it really needs a bigger venue with a lot more amenities, space for vendors and places to chill when you’ve worn yourself out. I’ll admit that maths isn’t my first language but 5 toilets for 600 people does not equate. By comparison The Great Southern Slam utilized the spacious Adelaide showgrounds to great effect and I think a similar approach to venue selection for the Con would solve many problems.
All things considered though for a first go, Rollercon Down Under did a remarkable job – the volunteers were great, the coaches were inspiring and the slushie machine was a stroke of genius. I hope we see a sequel. Rollercon isn’t just a place to meet your heroes. It’s a place to skate with them, learn from them and then go home and pay it forward.Push-up RAh Caloundra December 2012