It starts off like a scene from “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” minus the chainsaws, spikes and sledgehammers. But it ends with hugs, high-fives and smiling faces all around.
The “it” is the typical roller derby game, where players with menacing nicknames and mock-snarling faces square off against each other in two-minute bursts on the course, only to end everything on a high note.
Moab Roller Derby games are no exception, according to the group’s president, Erin “Jukulele” Trim.
“There will be those moments where you’re just trying to go after someone, and then at the end, we’re hugging or telling everyone, ‘Great game,’” she said.
This weekend, Moab Roller Derby will be hosting a unique event that puts collaboration over individual team spirit.
On Saturday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m., the group is holding its season opener at the Old Spanish Trail Arena’s outdoor pavilion. The Crash + Burn! mix-up will feature Moab Roller Derby players, as well as teams from the Wasatch Front and Colorado’s Western Slope.
It’s called a mix-up because players from rival teams are paired together into groups of two new five-member teams, based on their skill levels.
Organizers timed the mix-up to coincide with this weekend’s April Action Car Show, since players from other teams are coming to town for that event, according to Moab Roller Derby Vice President Xandra “AmaXandra” Odland.
As a tribute to the car show, they dubbed the teams the Chevelles and the Pintos.
Each “jam” starts with both point-scoring jammers behind the pack of roller skaters. When the whistle blows, the jammers have to push through the pack and lap as many of the other team’s skaters as they can in the span of two minutes or less.
“Any time she makes it through the pack, she gets a point for every player on the other team she passes,” Odland said.
The remaining four players on each team try to prevent the jammers from slipping past them.
“It’s quite fast-paced and very physical,” she said.
Trim said the action can be hard to follow if someone is not familiar with the sport.
“I guess it’s sort of organized chaos if you’re looking at it for the first time,” she said.
For their benefit, an announcer will lead a demo jam at the start of the mix-up; event programs will also explain some of the game’s finer points.
Although the sport can be intense, Moab Roller Derby follows the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s rules, so it’s not on the level of hockey.
“It’s definitely a contact sport, but it’s between the shoulders and the knees,” Odland said.
While elbowing is strictly prohibited, players can use their momentum to force a jammer off the course.
“They can try to knock her out of bounds, either on the inside, or on the outside,” she said.
Like Odland and others, Trim enjoys the full-contact aspect of the sport. But she also loves the strong sense of camaraderie among players, as well as the chance to play a team sport with other adults.
“It always seems to draw a bunch of unique women,” she said.
The spirit of collaboration extends beyond individual team members, she said, allowing the sport to thrive in the Four Corners area. Just last week, for instance, three Moab Roller Derby players traveled to the Denver area to skate as fill-ins on the Cortez, Colorado, team.
“A lot of teams will help fill up each other’s benches,” Trim said.
At one time in the not-too-distant past, those teams may have been playing to half-empty audiences.
Roller skating fell out of fashion for a time in the 1980s and 1990s in favor of roller blades and inline skates. But it bounced back in the early 2000s, according to Odland.
Women-only teams are leading the roller derby renaissance, although men’s and co-ed teams can be found in some larger cities across the country.
“It’s definitely on the upswing right now,” Odland said.
Anyone who plans to attend this weekend’s mix-up should bring their own chairs.
If you can’t make it to the event, you will still have other chances to see the team in action this season, which runs through late May.
The Moab Roller Derby is hosting two home games, and it will be holding another mix-up bout on Saturday, May 30. Trim is also looking forward to more and more games at the arena’s outdoor pavilion.
“Now that we have that awesome new venue, we hope to have some regular bouts,” she said.
Crash + Burn! comes to OSTA pavilion on April 25
When: Saturday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Old Spanish Trail Arena pavilion, 3641 S. U.S. Highway 191
Cost: $5 per person; bring your own chair. Free admission for children 10 and under
For more information, go to www.facebook.com/moabderby?fref=nf, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
“It always seems to draw a bunch of unique women.” — Moab Roller Derby President Erin Trim