The Penticton Pistoleras are skating past the stereotypes as they hope to bring a new breed of fans and participants to the sport of roller derby.
“It’s so much more athletic than it used to be. Before we were all wearing fishnets and had crazy makeup, that kind of thing, very alternative culture. Since I’ve been around it, it’s changed into a really athletic sport. Some of our teammates still wear fishnets and makeup because they want to,” said Cassandra Capone (who goes by the name Ram Rod on the track). “We train really hard. The games are super intense. They say you burn 600 calories just skating around for an hour. I don’t know what we burn skating with high intensity for two hours.”
Capone got involved in roller derby about six years ago while in Australia. She joined the Pistoleras four years ago. Her teammates, ranging in age from 22 to nearing 50, come from all different work backgrounds.
|Mother’s Slay didn’t lack physicality as, from left to right, Renee Lammerts (Reneagade) gives a shoulder to Melodie Lapina (Blair Block) with help from Shannon Lancaster (Slay-Her) during a match between the Penticton Pistoleras and Okanagan (Kelowna) Roller Derby.
Douglas Drouin Photography
Capone said there’s a variety of different levels of play from entry level to medium plus, what the Pistoleras are, to super high-end women’s flat track, which is an international league. She said through the South Okanagan Roller Derby Association, the non-profit entity the Pistoleras fall under, skaters are brought up through the ranks — from first learning how to skate and hit to playing. The refs and other officials are also part of the league.
“We have people that come that have no idea how to skate and we teach them from the ground up. Anyone can come and try it out. Because we’re a non-profit we put money back into the organization and we’re able to buy equipment, so people who wanted to learn could without putting $600 or more out on equipment.”
The Pistoleras are hoping to keep up their winning streak this Saturday during their first home game of the season. Capone said the team was undefeated in last year’s action and started this season with a bang, defeating Kelowna’s Okanagan Roller Derby team on April 21 with a score of 154 to 138.
“We have loving rivals (in roller derby). Kelowna and us are super, evenly matched. The point differentia was about 20 points and we won. We’re on a bit of a winning streak. We’re skating really tight,” Capone said.
|Pistoleras jammer Risa Lightning fights through the Farmers’ Slaughters wall. (Douglas Drouin)|
With a short schedule, Capone said every game counts. Roller derby is often played in curling club’s or ice rinks so there’s only a short-time the ice is out and the building useable.
The Pistoleras have only three games at the Penticton Curling Club, May 12 against Kelowna, May 26 against a combined area team, DERBY AF, and June 16 when they take on Smokin’ Laces Roller Derby from the Lower Mainland.
Capone said the goal of the league and most other roller derby organizations is to teach the sport and ensure it continues, all while having fun.
There’s not many sports that would lend a player to an opposing team, but that’s something that happens in roller derby regularly, Capone said.
“Most of the people that have played roller derby have played for another team before. You pitch in whenever a team is short because we want to play,” she said.
But just because players change teams to help out doesn’t mean the competition becomes lax.
“When we’re on the track we’re pretty fierce and super competitive because we really want to beat our opponent, but we’ll also go for a beer after that,” she said.
Capone said roller derby is a family friendly event with an atmosphere that is “electrifying.”
“Last year during our last game it was so loud we could hardly hear the refs. We just want everyone to come out and have fun,” she said.
The Pistoleras will lace up for their first home game May 12 at the Penticton Curling Club. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the bout starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door or $10 in advance from any roller derby members, LockWorks Inc. in Penticton and Beauty Box Studio Inc. in Summerland. Kids under 10 are free.