Can you believe there's a league... shanghai

Published on March 14th, 2013 | by Gypsy Bones


The Shang-High Rollers: China Makes its Derby Debut

What happens when three skaters and a ref from a British derby team coincidentally move at the same time to Shanghai, a city rich in roller discos but devoid of roller derby? China enters the derby age!

The Shang-High Rollers, 上海 滑轮者, (Shànghǎi huálún zhě), are China’s first roller derby league. They were founded in 2012 by three former members of The Dolly Rockit Rollers from the UK (Afronaut, Koko Kabama, and Truckin Elle), as well as one of the Rollers’ refs, Regi Mental. They all agreed that a life without roller derby would be “too much agony for us to bear” after their move. Since they had all held various roles within their last league, from promotions to secretarial, they used their experience at home to spread the word and lay the foundations for a league in a country that had never experienced derby before.

Shanghai Rollers Meeting 2 Group Photo.jpg

Shanghai, with a population of more than 23 million, is the largest city in China and, by population, the largest city proper (not including suburbs) in the world. Its location at the mouth of the Yangtze River on China’s eastern coast has contributed to its growth as a major trade and commerce center. It has one of China’s best education systems, and an extensive public transport network. Shanghai is the home of soccer, basketball, baseball and ice hockey teams, and the Rollers decided that it was ready for roller derby as well.

It took a lot of promoting, but after six months of work, people started to take notice. Their first meeting had a ‘decent’ turnout, and their second meeting tripled the number of interested skaters. They secured a practice venue at a happening roller disco, and the league was underway.

Their first practice had 12 skaters in attendance, and more are expected in the future, once their skate gear arrives! The group represents a diverse group of women from all around the world, including Britain, Australia, Germany, America, and of course, China. They have the advantage of great skating facilities, including a huge outdoor skate park for summer, and roller disco venues for when the weather is not conducive to outdoor skating. Apparently the local community appreciates roller disco quite a bit (note to self: VISIT SHANGHAI!!) and there is even a skate club (Atomic Skates) in Shanghai, from whom the High Rollers hope to be able to recruit skaters.


One challenge that the team faces is encouraging local Chinese skaters to get involved. They really would love to be all-inclusive and not just an expat team, as some teams in exotic venues tend to be. The expats in the area tend to be very supportive and encouraging, and as Koko Kabama says, “I’m sure local communities will be just as excited, just as soon as they work out what we are doing!”

They now have a new sister league in Beijing, who are starting up and looking for players and helpers. As far as leagues to bout in the future, they are excited that derby is making its way into the East. Besides Beijing, there are leagues in Japan and South Korea nearby, and they note that travel isn’t nearly as expensive on their side of the world.

As far as cultural obstacles, their league is bilingual, so communicating has never been an issue. They do note that “anything “new” or “different” always attracts a lot of stares here, but it’s something they were prepared for, and they enjoy telling people who they are and what they are about.

Are you planning a trip to China? Bring your skates, because you are invited to drop in to practice! They have had some drop-in requests from prominent USA and UK skaters so far.
If you live in or near Shanghai, the High Rollers’ facebook page invites you as well! “We are always open to newcomers who wish to participate in the great sport of roller derby, or who want to assist us as referees, coaches, sponsors, supporters and fans. (We welcome men to join us and be part of the league, but the gameplay is mainly reserved for female-identified folks.)”

What makes them unique? Koko says, “We are a League made up of world wide members (USA,UK, German, Australian, Dutch, Brazilian and lots more) playing on behalf of Shanghai, China. That’s a pretty unique set up to me!”

To learn more, “like” them on Facebook or check out their website.

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