Best show on wheels rolls into Nelson

Women’s roller derby has taken the Kootenays by storm, and Saturday night it’ll be rolling like thunder on the tracks of the Nelson Community Complex.

The seven-team West Kootenay Women’s Roller Derby League (WKWRDL) is now the largest league in Canada and the fever is spreading.

“It’s growing everywhere, but in the Kootenays it just seems proportionately ridiculous,” said Damon Walton, head coach of Rossland’s Gnarlie’s Angels.

“But everywhere, they’re saying this is the fastest growing sport in the world, even faster than Mixed Martial Arts.”

Roller derby is an American-invented sport based on formation roller-skating around an oval track, scoring points as two players from opposite teams called “jammers” lap members of the opposing team.

The Angels and Salmo’s Babe’s of Brutality are the veteran teams, having started skating about a year ago. Newer teams such as Nelson’s Lumber Jackies and Killjoys, are a little less seasoned but with good coaching and practice, it shouldn’t be too long before they’re competitive, says Walton.

“We’re trying to make the whole league stronger . . . look how far we (the Angels) came in such short order.”

The Castlegar resident started coaching when his girlfriend – star jammer Canuck Norris – joined the Angels. He read through the rules and attended derby clinics but the real help came from an old friend – the head referee of the Canadian Roller Derby Association, Noah Backtalk, who bombarded Walton with derby material and coaching tips.

Walton’s guidance has helped the Angels to an undefeated record but he credits the incredible athleticism of Kootenay women for the success. Look no further than their drubbing of experienced teams like Kelowna and Lethbridge last year.

“We’ve got teams that are amazing and probably playing at levels higher than expected.

“Coaches can only do so much but if we’re bringing in strategies that’s unfamiliar to them, that’s fantastic.”

For Emma Moran, skater “Bearing Fatale,” on the Angels and league treasurer, the attraction to the sport may have something to do with her previous career as a stuntwoman in Australia.

“I thought it would be a tough sport and thought the women who played the sport would be pretty rough but when I saw that they were just like me, I thought, ‘Okay I can do this,’” she said.

“I didn’t have to be any type of person – anyone can do it.”

The sport is quickly becoming a phenomenon because it provides an outlet for camaraderie and competition with an edge, she added.

“It’s just something that is a little bit different and it really empowers women in ways that other sports typically don’t.”

When they are not playing, the women volunteer at the events and their combined talents have turned the WKWRDA into a slick marketing machine: selling out matches, merchandising, picking up sponsors and more significantly, creating the best product on wheels.

“We’re just lucky, we’ve got a good number of girls who are really well organized and contribute whatever skills they have to the league, and they do it because they love to do it,” she said.

The “Silence of the Jams” doubleheader rolls onto the track Friday at 7 p.m. with Nelson’s Lumber Jackies taking on the Rossland’s Gnarlies Angels and Castlegar’s Dam City Rollers bump heads with the Killjoys. Door open at 6 p.m. $10 advance, $15 at door and $2 for kids 10-years-old and under. Tickets can be picked up at Ross Vegas in Rossland, Gerick Cycle and Sports in Trail, Mountain High Lighting in Castlegar, West Kootenay Scuba Shop in Salmo and Phat Angel in Nelson.

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