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Video: Men’s Roller Derby In San Diego

Evening Edition

Above: San Diego is now home to a men's roller derby team. KPBS arts reporter Angela Carone says the San Diego Aftershocks are part of a growing trend in roller derby.

Roller derby may be known as a women’s sport, but the San Diego Aftershocks are trying to change that. The city’s first amateur men’s roller derby team is building its roster of players, each with their own roller derby name. Players like Nick X Fury, Soul Rider, Electric Field, Tomikaze!, Bobby Light and B. Stang have suited up for the flat-track league.

Men’s roller derby may not have the same appeal as women’s – fewer short shorts and fishnets - but that hasn’t stopped men’s teams from popping up all over the country. Thomas Griffin, aka Tomikaze! says the sport will eventually catch on. "You know, whether it’s gonna be as big as women, I don’t know. It’s culturally a women’s sport, at this point."

There are over 500 women’s teams in the US, while the number of men’s teams is just shy of 70. The women’s game is so popular, in 2009 it inspired a major studio movie directed by Drew Barrymore called "Whip It."

Aftershocks team captain B. Stang says "the new chapter in roller derby is gonna be for the guys. The guys game is a little bit faster, it’s a little bit stronger, a little more aggressive."

Sarah Lang is helping coach the Aftershocks. Lang also goes by Lady Diesel when plays for one of the San Diego women’s team, The Starlettes. Lang says guys come to the sport differently than women. "Most guys have a contact sport background prior to roller derby. You know, they’ve played football, or even basketball, soccer. So they’re not scared of the contact."

Tomikaze!'s list of injuries proves her point. "I’ve had my nose busted, I’ve had a concussion, a broken rib. I’m actually injured right now because I have a neck injury. But the most tiring thing in this sport is getting knocked down and repeatedly getting up."

The growing number of men’s teams has sparked controversy and fears that men’s roller derby will eventually overshadow the women’s version. Again, Tomikaze!: "And I kind of get that. Women have this niche they’ve carved out. They’ve worked very hard to get it and they don’t want a situation where this becomes so popular but people want to see the men because it’s more fast-paced, more rough. I completely get that. But, I just want to play the sport, so I hope there’s a spot for us."

Team captain B. Stang says the Aftershock players come from all over San Diego. "We're mostly from the twenty to forty age range. Anybody, any age can come out and do this. We’ll teach you how to skate and teach you the rules and make sure you don't get hurt."

The San Diego Aftershocks played their first home game earlier this month at Skateworld in Linda Vista. They played the Phoenix Rattleskates.

Roller derby rounds are called jams, and the person who racks up the points for a team is called the "jammer." Tomikaze! says the jammer is key. "The jammer is the person you probably wanna be watching when you’re a fan of the game. They’ll have a star on their helmet, so you can tell how they are. I tell people they’re kind of like running backs in football."

During the game with the Rattleskates, the Aftershocks played some pretty fast jammers who racked up the points.

In the end, the Aftershocks strong blocking skills and fast jammers were too much for the Rattleskates. The Aftershocks got their first win – which was extra sweet since they played at home. Team captain, B. Stang: "The final score was 163 to 93 so we won by a good margin but the thing in derby is you can have a 20-25 point jam like that so no lead is comfortable. But it was good that we played strong until the end."

The San Diego Aftershocks will play their first full season of games in 2012.

This video was shot and edited by KPBS videographer, Katie Euphrat.

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