When these women strap on roller skates, they mean business.
And if they happen to bloody, bruise, or break another player while on the track, well, that just comes with the territory.
They're roller derby girls, players in the recently-revived, brutal action sport now catching fire.
And with all-girl roller derby comes fishnet stockings, short skirts, cleavage, tattoos – and alter-egos with lots of attitude.
“It's not the old derby. It's a new era of women. It's about aggression,” says Brigette Carlson, of Lake Forest, Calif., who founded the Orange County Demolition Divas in January.
A popular co-ed sport until around the late '70s, roller derby re-emerged in 2001 with several all-girl leagues in Texas.
About 40 all-girl leagues now span the nation, including in Los Angeles (L.A. Derby Dolls, Angel City Derby Divas), San Diego (San Diego Derby Dolls), Orange County (the Divas, and the Orange County Roller Girls) and Riverside/San Bernardino (Inland Empire Derby Divas).
The league's rigorous twice-weekly practices are whipping the women into shape, thanks to help from members of the L.A. Derby Dolls and the skills of artistic speed coach Gail Collier, part-owner of Holiday Skate Center in Orange, where the Divas practice.
For Heather Shelton, founder of the Orange County Roller Girls, roller derby allows her to take on a different persona than who she is at work, the executive assistant for a local opera company.
“You can be adventurous, and tough, and sassy, and flirty, and still get your exercise in,” says Shelton, 31, aka Disco Dervish.
She founded the Roller Girls in June. She found a coach, speed-skating record holder Jay Etheredge of Huntington Beach, and began recruiting members.
“There is the drama, but it's about respecting each other and enjoying the sport,” says Shelton.
And while the Roller Girls aren't a blood-thirsty bunch, per se, the women are rearing to start bouting.
The women are working hard to ramp up their skills, attending bi-weekly practices at California Roller Hockey Center in Irvine, guided by Etheredge, who also coaches speed skating and roller hockey. Each player must pass a challenging list of 26 skill sets, determined by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, before being eligible to bout.
The league plans to start bouting in November. “They'll be ready,” says Etheredge.
© 2006, SqueezeOC.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.