Jenibeth Jones (aka “Jeni Death”) who has skated with Moab Roller Derby for two years, said the “physical-ness” is what she likes best about the sport. Most of the action in Roller Derby requires physical skill, as each play or “jam” involves skating hard and usually fast around a track and legally hitting opposing team members. Each team has four “blockers” who try to prevent the other team’s “jammer” from scoring, all at high speeds.
“It looks chaotic,” said Mo Clapper (who skates as “Mosama Bin Lappin”) a three-year veteran of Moab Roller Derby. ”But there is strategy and we’re doing a lot of plays.”
Clapper noted that before each game, the teams perform a mock jam to explain the rules.
“If you don’t know anything about the game it looks like a bunch of girls skating in circles hitting each other. But once you watch for a little while it gets easier to follow,” she said.
At Saturday’s home bout, the Moab Roller Derby team will try out a new venue. After years of struggling to rent a space for home games, the team has found a home at the new pavilion at Old Spanish Trail Arena south of Moab.
“I’m excited to see how the venue works, how the floor rolls,” said Clapper. “We’ve been skating on it but its different when you play a game — the intenseness is greater.”
Moab Roller Derby plans to have more local events, now that they have a home space. Jessica O’Leary, whose skater moniker is “Evil Lucian,” founded the Moab team in 2011. O’Leary said that with the new space, the team hopes to have two distinct skating seasons.
“I would love to see derby keep growing and recruiting new skaters when we start up the next season,” she said.
For many Moab Roller Derby skaters, the challenge and camaraderie of the team drew them to the sport, despite being shaky on their skates at first.
Jess “Do R Dye” Dye has been competing with the Moab Roller Derby for two-and-a-half years.
“We all start somewhere,” Dye said. “When I first started I was just like a little kid again, having a hard time just keeping in a straight line.”
She, like the rest of the team, hopes their team’s numbers will grow.
“People can come and practice” said Erin “Jukulele” Trim. “We often have a few skates people can borrow and extra pads if they just want to try it out.”
But to compete, a Roller Derby newbie has to pass a minimum skills test.
“Minimum skills is a lot of interesting things,” said Trim. “You have to be able to skate backwards, jump off the ground, and do 27 laps in 25 minutes.” She encouraged interested people to come and watch their practices.
Though the present members may be small in number, the women of Moab Roller Derby each have incredible passion for their team.
“I just love this group of women,” said Trim. “They’re really fun and we build each other up so the dynamic is really empowering.”
Echoing her sentiment, Dye said, “We play with a lot of really strong women — its like family.”
Clapper described roller derby as “a way of life.”
“There’s a feeling I get in Derby that I don’t get anywhere else,” Clapper said, as she helps her teammates run plays and skate bursts.
The Moab Roller Derby Summer Showdown is this Saturday, Aug. 23 at 6 p.m., at the Old Spanish Trail Arena pavilion, 3641 S. U.S. 191. Doors at 5 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults; there is no admission fee for children.