Published on March 6th, 2013 | by DerbyLife0
Maui Rollergirls by Steve Holdings
Trouble in Paradise: The Maui Roller Girls Tear Up the Track on the Valley Isle
by Gypsy Bones, Boulder County Bombers
All photos by Duane Sparkman except header photo
It is barely drizzling on my side of the island in the West Maui mountains in the early afternoon. My phone buzzes. “Hey there, Skarre from MRG. It is currently pouring and we will probably end up meeting at a skater’s house. Just wanted to give you a heads up.” Within a few minutes I receive a second text from Sassin, also on the east side of the island, and making sure I know the same thing. An hour later the storm has blown across from east to west and it’s pouring on the west side too.
The tropical paradise of Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian islands, and is the third most populated. It is nicknamed the “Valley Isle,” formed by two volcanoes linked by an isthmus of land. One of its craters, Haleakala, is noted for its sunrises, and many have claimed spiritual experiences there. The weather, though primarily tropical and lovely, can change quickly, and near the summit, it can become very cold. My husband was caught in a sudden downpour near the crater on his bike and, though a native Coloradan and accustomed to 10,000 foot altitude and cold, can attest to the power of the whims of the weather of Maui’s varied topography.
The Maui Roller Girls were founded in February 2008 and are Maui’s first flat track roller derby league. Their founder, Killah Kelly (formerly of Sac City Rollers, now on the Rat City All-stars) was recovering from a skating injury and was working as a DJ at a Maui radio station. During one of her shows, she chatted about roller derby on the air, and instantly 5 women called in to the station to ask about playing. They set up a meeting, and the league was underway.
November 2012 Scorpions vs The World Scrimmage
The new skaters started out at open skate just learning how to stand up on their wheels, then moved to different parking lots before finding their home where they currently practice three nights a week, at the Central Maui Boys and Girls Club Outdoor Basketball Court in Kahului, on the island’s east coast. They welcome drop-in skaters who are lucky enough to be visiting their beautiful island to come to their practices, and as I found out, are more than kind and accommodating in their communication. They have hosted drop-ins from Australia, Canada, Germany, and all over the USA including Alaska, Minnesota, New York, Washington, California, and Nevada. For their fifth birthday celebration this month, they are celebrating with a Birthday Bash Bout against the Oregon Trail Mix.
It has sometimes been difficult for them to keep a steady roster (on occasion having had as few as 8 bouting skaters) both because Maui tends to be a transient location, and also due to sharing skaters’ time with other island sports such as soccer, softball and canoe paddling. The skaters observe that if you don’t have roots on Maui, it can be a difficult place to live. In the past two years, they have maintained a steadier number of members, and have established a boot camp system for new skaters to start out together. They currently have 18 roster-ready members and a promising crop of 6 boot campers.
Hawaii has four A bracket derby teams (teams that have been around for 2 or more years) including the Maui Roller Girls. On the Big Island, there are the Paradise Roller Girls; Oahu has Pacific Roller Derby, and Kauai has Garden Isle Renegade Rollerz. There are also several B bracketed teams (2 years or less): the Echo City Knockouts, Waimea Wranglers and Kona Outlaw Roller Girls on the Big Island, the Aloha City Rollers of Oahu, and Maui’s second league, the Maui Owies. The Maui Roller Girls state that they have a loving relationship with all the teams in Hawaii.
September 2012 Battle of the Islands
It may sound lovely to be able to skate outdoors nearly year round, aside from the occasional downpour, of course. However, if it rains on bout day, they have had to cancel, which is frustrating for both skaters and fans. Also, the beauty of a tropical island comes with the price of isolation. Your league may be accustomed to piling skaters in the car to road trip to an away bout. But when you live on Maui, any travel necessarily involves airports and airline tickets (there used to be a ferry for inter-island travel, but unfortunately it has shut down). Last year while on Oahu, I watched one of the Hawaiian Pacific Roller Derby’s bouts, and was astonished to discover that the visiting team was from Okinawa. The Maui Roller Girls have traveled inter-island, as well as to Oregon for the Rollerpalooza in 2010. Their fundraising efforts enable them to cover hotels and cars for their team, but skaters have to pick up their own airfare.
Last year, the Hawaiian teams started a tournament called Battle of the Islands so that all the leagues in the islands could get together and play against one another at once in order to save on travel expenses. This year the Maui Roller Girls will be hosting the Battle of the Islands on June 28th and 29th, and they have use of a warehouse to eliminate the rain factor. They have also begun to have monthly fun, dress-up type scrimmages during the rest of the year to keep themselves in game shape.
2011 Maui Roller Girls vs Pacific Roller Derby’s Mischevils
The Maui Roller Girls play for the love of derby, and despite the occasional rained-out practice or the heartbreak of members moving away, “we have created a strong bond that may seem hard to penetrate for new people but in our core is a soft squishy love fest that keeps us together both on and off the track. These are my sisters, my family; I know that no matter what happens I can count on them,” says Skarre. “Our small size does mean that we are like an extended Ohana (family)…there is no better feeling.”
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