It’s time to rock and roll
KIHEI – Bruised but never beaten, the Maui Owie Rollers have come a long way since their days of simply learning how to skate.
The all-female roller derby team, which started only a year ago, hosted its first match on the island in front of more than 100 spectators on Saturday at the Kihei Kalama Park Roller Rink.
Although the Waimea Wranglers of the Big Island beat the Rollers 189-118, the only thing that mattered to team founder Shayana Williamson, also known as “Lil Bo Beat Down,” was that the match was played.
“We’ve been working on this tournament for months now,” she said. The team has played matches in Oahu and Hilo, but never on Maui. “We had to fill out all of our insurance paperwork and secure this location, and it was just a lot of going back and forth with the county. They were really great though in getting us in here.”
Williamson, who caught the flu before the game, said she was puking the entire night and worried she would not make the game.
The team spent hours placing track lines and boundaries on Friday night and arrived at 7 a.m. Saturday to pitch tents and make final preparations before the 10:30 a.m. game. At the event, fans enjoyed play-by-play commentary from announcers, face-painting, concessions and other amenities.
“This morning, I had to try to get out there because it was just so much work to put this all together,” she said.
The 27-year-old Williamson was one of the original players on the Maui Roller Girls squad that was founded in 2008 and based in Wailuku and Kahului, but had dreams of making a Kihei-based team.
“I posted all over my Facebook, I made tons of Craigslist ads, I did tons of posters and put them all around Kihei, because I wanted to make a Kihei-based team,” she said.
“It’s really nice that we have two teams on Maui now. The Maui Roller Girls are obviously much more experienced than us, but hopefully we’ll be able to compete with each other and not have to travel inter-island to have bouts because it gets pretty expensive.”
Since the Rollers’ inception last March, the team of 14 players has had a difficult time finding a consistent practice location.
“It’s really hard to find, just a surface that’s big and flat,” Williamson said. “We’ve kind of been hopping from parking lot to parking lot.”
The roller derby team has practiced on softball fields and basketball courts, and even fundraised to buy portable light towers to set up around the courts.
Aside from Williamson, none of the players had ever played roller derby before joining. Most of them had not put on a pair of skates in a while.
“I hadn’t been on skates in 20 years,” said Willow Krause, AKA “Game Changer.” “I just saw a flier for a new team starting, no experience necessary, and I just wanted to get out there and do it. I couldn’t wait.”
Krause, 32, works on the Maui Economic Development Board and is the coordinator for the Focus Maui Nui Alliance program, which is a leadership and stewardship program for Maui High School students. Although she is an educator, wife and mother of a 3-year-old, she said it was a sport she could see herself doing.
About seven years ago she saw the sport make a resurgence and wanted to start playing, but because she did not have health insurance she decided to pass. When she finally finished the process and joined the team, her husband was still concerned.
“He was a little nervous,” she said. “He said, ‘What if you get hurt, what’s going to happen?’ He was a bit nervous about my safety, but once he saw just how much I loved it, he’s been incredibly supportive. I wouldn’t be able to do it without him.”
Julie Nolan, AKA “Great Dane of Pain,” towers above most players at 6 foot 2. She had second thoughts about joining the team.
“I was so nervous this morning,” she said after Saturday’s game. Due to injury, Nolan did not play in previous games and, instead, served as a bench coach. “I was kind of freaking out a little bit.”
Nolan, 33, calmed down once the game started and said the only thing she was thinking about was getting past blockers and taking down the opposing team’s jammer.
Roller derby, which is played on a flat, or banked, circular track, is comprised of two 30-minute halves. Each team sends one jammer, one pivot and three blockers onto the playing surface. Teams score points when their jammer skates past the opposing team’s blockers and pivots. Blockers, who are led by the pivot, try to prevent jammers from crossing them – sometimes by any means necessary.
“I get a lot of penalties,” said Krause, who played in her 11th game. “So I gotta work on that.”
Despite the rough nature of the sport, Nolan loves playing with her teammates and said it’s unlike any other sport she has played.
“There’s something about the team spirit with the girls, it’s a sisterhood,” she said.
Williams said the team is funded through donations from businesses, merchandise sold at first and fourth Fridays, and fundraisers. Players also pay $25 a month, but it is an expense many of them are willing to pay.
“There’s so much love and it’s so much fun,” Nolan said. “It’s a little rough too, but that’s what makes it interesting.”
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.