On a Sunday night in December, it’s hard to find a parking spot in the Skateland lot in Dundalk. Inside the old skate hall, the arena is filled with eager spectators, all waiting to see a pack of elbow- and knee-padded women on wheels skate onto the oval track.
Soon enough, the scoreboard activates, the audience erupts in applause, and an organized chaos ensues as these fearless females strategically slam into one another and sprawl across the laminated floor.
This is a typical bout for the Charm City Roller Girls, Baltimore’s all-female roller derby league, now in its 13th year. While lesser known than the city’s big-name sports teams, these underdog athletes have garnered a loyal following for their serious athleticism and diehard commitment to this throwback full-contact sport.
“Players have to be on both offense and defense,” explains Boom Shocka Latke, last season’s fan favorite player.
Some 20 athletes make up each of the league’s six teams, with five on the track at a time: three blockers, one pivot, and one jammer. To win, a jammer must rack up points by passing her opponents during a series of short matches, or “jams.”
The games are rigorous and intense, but so is the process of joining the local league, with each player enduring a weeks-long boot camp and then, once they’ve made the cut, up to four practices a week and scrimmages throughout the off-season.
But newbies are still encouraged to tryout as women of all ages, shapes, skill levels, and professions form the league. It’s not unusual to see an attorney, a butcher, and a software engineer skating side-by-side under playful monikers.
“This sport allows people to embrace the badassery of what women can do with their bodies,” says Shema Toma, who joined the league at age 42. Adds Marv E Lust, a first-time member of the all-star team, “It doesn’t matter what your age, race, or sexuality is. If you want to skate, then join us.”