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Published on June 3rd, 2013 | by Sylvia Bloodbath

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Me and my R3s: A love story

As “extreme sports” go, I’d say that roller derby is pretty unusual. When you look at skateboarders, for instance, they will often have the most beat up piece of nonsense board held together with wood glue and hope, and a helmet that has definitely seen more than the recommended single impact. Sure, the top tier guys will have their sponsored kit and brand new bits and bobs every week, but for the majority, they will skate with that one board until it breaks into teeny tiny pieces.

Us derby types, we covet beauty and superior function. It takes about 18 seconds for people to start discussing wheel upgrades, and within a few months the latest “wet mould vs heat mould” argument has started. Girls will max out credit cards and take out loans to get that “perfect skate”. Since I started my team, Surrey Roller Girls, 18 months ago, the girls have slowly started to obsess over this plate and that boot, and the Antiks and Luiginos have snuck into the standard kits of more and more of them.

Don’t get me wrong, these are excellent skates that absolutely justify the price. But I happily slip on my Riedell R3s, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s partly financial, times are tight for us all, but even if I had the money I don’t think I’d change my skates. They’ve had some nips and tucks, new wheels and cushions, but at their core they are the same skates I excitedly bought on my third week of derby skating.

The kit we buy as fresh meat is so often underrated, and discarded at the first possible moment. It makes me sad, because I KNOW my skates. I know exactly how they’re going to behave, their quirks and how I can lean just so to land the hit I want. God knows they aren’t perfect, and maybe after all this time they’re holding me back, but I would lose confidence without them. They are an extension of who I am as a skater.

Sometimes it seems like we’re under a lot of pressure to upgrade, upgrade, upgrade. For some things, like knee pads, I absolutely agree with upgrading as soon as you can afford it, we only get one pair of knees after all! With skates, a big part of me feels like we should be harking back to the DIY ethos of old. Buy something solid when you first start, preferably with interchangeable parts (I’m looking at you, Volts), and simply stick with them until bits start falling off. If bits start falling off, just tape them back on.

I’m pretty sure that my skates aren’t long for this world. They are coming unglued at the sides, and no amount of hockey tape is going to rescue the fraying stitching at the back. I half expect to be skating along one day and for them to decide to stop being skates and start being unwieldy sneakers. When that day comes, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll upgrade, maybe I’ll get another pair exactly the same, my little derby security blanket. One things for sure though, I’ll keep my first skates like a trophy.

So thank you, R3s, for being my trusty companions for so long. You’ve helped me to score points and stop points from being scored. You’ve thrown me towards women twice my size. Sometimes I get mad at you when you get away from yourselves and take me on a little journey into a wall or on to my own face, but that’s OK: I think that was partly my fault.

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Sylvia Bloodbath

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