Go go Zürich City Rollergirlz!

17 May 2014, 10:06 p.m.

Today I went to my first roller derby bout. It was terrific fun! Several of my friends have been into roller derby for a while, and I've always wanted to see a bout, so when we found out that the Zürich City Rollergirlz were playing ten minutes from our doorstep, we had to go.

Roller derby is hard to photograph! Zürich's jammer breaks free of the block.

Like, really hard to photograph, with a phone at least. The block forms up before the start of a jam.

The home team, in green, was playing against Frankfurt's Bembel Town in blue and red. David and I met Jasmine and her girlfriend Sarah at the Fronwald Sports Centre just in time to find seats on the bench before the bout started. The rink had been marked by tape on the floor of the large hall, and the teams came in one at a time to make laps as the announcers introduced them by number and derby name.

None of us had seen live roller derby before. Luckily, the rules were explained in our programmes and the teams gave a demo before play began, but we still spent a lot of time trying to figure out the minutiae. That didn't make it any less exciting to watch, though! Each team has a jammer, with a star on her helmet, whose goal is to make it through the pack of blockers and lap them — once or, if she can, twice or even three times. The blockers, meanwhile, try to block the other team's jammer, lining up in a wall or sending her off the rink with a well-timed bump of the hip. It's a fast, full-contact sport, with frequent crashes and spills, rock music playing over the sound system (including Joan Jett and Peaches!), and the skaters dressing up as their rowdy derby personas. I've found a sport I can love to watch.

Bembel Town was stronger on defence and one of their jammers was especially fast, but the Rollergirlz' jammers were more skilled at slipping through the pack. Every time we saw the green starred helmet break free, we cheered and whooped. Zürich was well in the lead at the end of the first period. In the second half, while we enjoyed the cakes and beer we'd bought in the break, Bembel Town made up some ground, but Zürich still won by a good fifty points. The spectators lined the rink for the teams to make their victory laps, slapping our outstretched hands — one of the Germans, who'd been injured, joined back in for this part holding a cloth to her face.

The Zürich City Rollergirlz are playing at Fronwald again in July, against the Dom City Dolls from Utrecht, and I will most certainly be there.