Quality Testing: Derby Gear

When I was home for Christmas, my uncle gave me a pretty amazing gift: A brand new pair of derby skates, like the ones Derby Lite had for us to borrow at the one-off lesson.

New skates!

New skates!

I’d emailed him my blog post about the class because I thought he’d be interested, and he was psyched. I am still in disbelief that he got me these skates. He even outfitted them with better wheels than the default set they came with and showed me how to change them with the tool included in the box.

I tried them on that day, and they felt like they fit — at least, they felt like an appropriately-sized pair of shoes with wheels on them. I won’t know for sure until I skate in them. I had hoped to try them out this past Tuesday, during a Derby Lite event, but when I emailed to register I was told I couldn’t participate in the event until I’ve been through training. That makes sense — It was a scrimmage, kind of, and they don’t want people who don’t know what they’re doing yet on the track.

On Sunday night I placed an order online for my gear. I’d written down the sizes of what I’d borrowed for reference and got my own knee and elbow pads, a mouth guard, wrist guards, and a royal blue helmet. The box containing them came to my office in the morning on New Year’s Eve, and I opened it eagerly.

Helmet, guards, pads

Helmet, guards, pads

An hour later, the CEO and president of our company sent us home early to celebrate New Years Eve. It was noon, and I decided to spend my half-day off at the roller rink. I had checked online earlier and had been surprised to see there’s one only three miles north of my office. Cursing myself for not planning ahead and bringing the new skates to try, I decided to go anyway and at least test out the new gear.

It’s funny how roller rinks across America all smell the same. I don’t know what causes it, but it’s the same at every rink I’ve been to. I showed up around 12:30, and while the door was unlocked, the place was dark inside. I went into the bathroom to change and try on the gear — with the exception of my helmet, because my hair was in a giant, tall bun. I also felt silly putting on a helmet to skate around a giant rink completely alone. After about 15 minutes of adjusting and making sure everything fit, I walked back to the lobby. I saw then that I would no longer be skating alone. A line had formed, of twenty or so kids and teens. A New Year’s Eve skate party was starting at 1, it turned out, and no one was in school for the day.

I paid my admission and skate rental and watched the place slowly fill up. Out on the rink it was fine at first, and I skated quickly and confidently. However, more kids entered the rink every minute and I had to slow down for fear of running into them. The silver lining is that because of this, I discovered I’m really good and weaving in and out among other skaters. I just did so worrying that any second I was going to get told off for it by an employee.

I only skated about an hour, practicing holding the derby play stance I’d learned: full-on squat, butt out, back straight, hands up in prayer position, and elbows in. When I got off the track, I decided to try to T-stop, where you take one skate and place it in front of the other, forming a T, and serving as a brake. Even though I couldn’t have been skating more than 3-5 miles per hour, I absolutely crumpled to the ground the second I did it. It was the only time I fell the whole time, and I wasn’t even on the rink.

The good news is, I had my wrist guards on straight this time. That’s important too, because they’re what hit the floor first.

I am sad I didn’t get to try my new skates, but I’m packing them in my car with the hopes I will get to go back to the rink by work in the next few days. One thing I need now is a zipped gym bag to hold all this new stuff: Skates, pads, guards, helmet. The skates are pretty heavy on their own, so I’ll need something that’s durable and up to the challenge.

I keep resisting the urge to buy a custom Penny Pain shirt. It feels wrong enough that I’ve already settled on a name before starting training, and I feel like buying something with my chosen name this early would be either a bad omen, or presumptuous. Nothing will stop me from looking at all that Etsy has to offer, though.