HONOLULU (KHON2) — Queen Kamayhemayhem. Annabelle Lecter. Cookie CutHer. Slam Musubi. Strawberry Shortskate. Olive A. Sudden. Kamira Minute. The list goes on.
Meet the Pacific Roller Derby (PRD) team. They have cool names, hot skates and a strong bond.
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“[Roller derby] is an outlet, a place you can sweat it out after a long day of work, but more deeply, a sisterhood,” said Ailsa Cooper, or as her derby sisters call her, Heidi Doom. “When you join a roller derby team, you have 30 instant sisters.”
Cooper is PRD’s new skater liaison. She previously served as the general manager but decided to step down from that role as she juggles the new girls program and event planning.
By day, she’s the officer manager for Hawaii Gastroenterology Specialists, but when she walks out those doors and puts on her skates, she becomes Heidi Doom.
“Heidi Doom has become such an integral part of me that I have just as many people who know me as Heidi as they do Ailsa,” said Cooper.
The 33-year-old skater is excited to announce PRD’s first boot camp of the year to introduce “fresh meat” to the joy of derby on March 7. It’s welcome news after the pandemic put Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby on hold for two years.
“There have been zero sanctioned games and everything was kind of canceled,” Cooper said.
PRD’s last game was held in February 2020, and then things shut down in March. The team tried to navigate the best they could through the restrictions, holding practices of five skaters with social distancing.
“Can you imagine going to football practice with only five players and not being able to run into each other?” said Cooper.
During the pandemic, the team lost a lot of skaters who didn’t feel motivated to show up to practice because there were no competitions. PRD’s charter team, the Hulagans, usually get to travel twice a year for Battle of the Islands — where they battle neighboring island teams — and Big Island Brawl, where mainland teams come to duke it out. In 2019, Oahu hosted Battle of the Islands at Mililani 10 Acres Park.
“Because we haven’t had these exciting events in two years, we have lost some skaters,” Cooper explained. “We have also lost a lot of skaters due to PCS-ing.”
PCS is short for “Permanent Change of Station,” which means someone is making a move from one military duty station to another. Cooper said a big part of Oahu’s team is made up of military members and their spouses.
“Three-fourths of our team is different than it was three years ago,” Cooper said. “Silver lining to Oahu being so transient is we have gotten some great new transfer skaters from the mainland in the past two years.”
Since PRD hasn’t had a travel team in two years, they couldn’t renew any of their sponsorships since there are no games to advertise, and they lost their weekend venue.
“We used to practice on weekends, but we lost our weekend venue, the Mililani track, during the pandemic,” said Cooper. “This has been very frustrating, but we loved that track and it was our game venue. It just sits there in all it’s skateable glory while we wait.”
Cooper added that some of their players had to drop out because they could only make weekend practices due to work schedules. Currently, they only have a weekday venue at Papakōlea Community Park where they practice two nights a week. (If you know of any track or large warehouse that wants to house their roller derby practices and events, click here.)
“We are still a team, we have been practicing, but it has looked very different the past few years than what it looked like in 2019 when we were hosting tournaments and traveling with our team,” said Cooper.
Practices have mostly been focused on footwork and endurance.
“A lot of derby players have discovered the joy of park skating, trail skating and jam skating,” Cooper added.
Currently, there are about 20 players on the team, majority of them are women between ages 18 and 45. Transgender women and gender-neutral skaters are also welcome; men can skate with the team at practice and become referees, but they can’t join the women’s travel team.
“Our skaters include a nurse, a postwoman, a museum curator, a therapist, a few active military members, and we even have a mom and a daughter playing for the same team,” Cooper said.
There’s also a junior team called the Honolulu LeiOuts for kids and teens.
Since 2008, when a handful of tenacious skaters formed PRD, Oahu’s first modern-day roller derby league has evolved as a sport and with its diversity in members. In 2009, PRD became Hawaii’s first member league of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, a nonprofit that fosters roller derby around the globe.
For those interested in joining the derby family, boot camp runs from March 7 through March 30 at Papakōlea Community Park. No experience is necessary. Since there’s limited gear to loan out, people are encouraged to bring their own skates. Participants must email email@example.com to sign waivers prior to showing up. Click here for more info.
“We don’t expect anyone to know how to play derby when they show up,” said Cooper. “At the first practice, skaters will be taught how to fall properly, how to stop and how to get low in derby position. No one will be slamming into you during the first few weeks of boot camp until you are stable and confident.”
After their boot camp in March, PRD will be holding Hulagans tryouts in April. By May, they are hoping to have a weekend venue to start having scrimmages where the team splits up to challenge each other.
“It’s not as intense as a bout, but we can have fans and it is something we really look forward to,” Cooper said. “The only travel we have booked so far for 2022 is RollerCon in Vegas in July.”
RollerCon is a huge roller derby convention that hosts workshops, parties and mixed scrimmages. Cooper said it’s a great way to meet skaters from all over the world and to learn new skills.
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“We are one big derby ohana,” said Cooper. “Roller derby is a place where everyone can be themselves. All different body types are celebrated. We challenge each other to be better and everyone is valued.”