We've been praising the OC Roller Girls for years in these pages, even when they didn't exist--hell, Lowery was writing about skating's renaissance a decade ago, back when femininity was defined by Britney Spears and tramp stamps. We've named them on our Sexiest People list back in 2011, do slideshows on them whenever possible, and root for them at all times.
But I had never attended an OC Roller Girls match until this past Saturday, because I wanted them to prove something.
See, I was one of the first people to find out that they had just built a banked ramp in deepest, darkest SanTana but didn't appreciate that the building was so hidden. I challenged one of the gals to put a big-ass marquee outside the building to announce their presence to the world; they demurred, citing, um, demureness.
But the gals are good--and I am stubborn--so I waited until their marquee arrived: a solitary roller skate hung high from the outside, painted neon orange. Went up just a couple of months ago. BRILLIANT.
I joined the sold-out crowd last Saturday at the Roller Girls' home turf, a beautiful building off Main Street (just across the street from El Chile Picante) that was formerly a furniture warehouse. Inside, the gals had build a massive skating rink, angled for maximum badassery. They're still trying to figure out how to build bleachers (code issues, apparently), so audience members had to stand the entire time and the audience was limited to about 80 instead of the over-200 crowds they usually get at their flat skate rink in Huntington Beach.
It didn't matter: from the moment the first...um, scrum...started skating, the place was roaring. The two teams that night were the Psycho Ex-Girlfriends and the Crash Test Bunnies. I rooted for both of them equally, because I have gal pals on both squads: for the Ex-Girlfriends, the sister of my best friend Art, America's ultimate working-class hero; for the Bunnies, a writer for the Orange County Register (guess which one!) and a woman with the awesome name of Ursula. It didn't matter: the action was fabulous. Seriously: how can anyone be opposed to women madly skating around a banked track, leveling each other, and quickly getting up like nothing happened? The names were cute (Kensington Malice, Molly Rinkwall, Dez-Madre--my personal favorite-- and Tweeeee, which, if her real name ain't Thuy, then I'll give you a penny), the announcer funny, the 50/50 raffle generous, and they even have a skate shop that's open to the public during the day.
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The sport itself is like Olympic cycling on the velodrome. From what I can tell, each team designates one gal (distinguished by a star on their helmet) called a jammer that's supposed to skate a full lap around the track; every time they do that, they earn points. The trick, of course, is to smash through the wall of humanity that is a group of gals skating around the rink, hands frequently locked to ensure no twerp jammer through.
From here emerges the artistry. I saw jammers pick up speed around the track, then dodge and swerve around the blockers with the nimbleness of Barry Sanders--hell, I saw some jammers do bona fide SPINS around the blockers. I saw blockers sense jammers racing behind them, ready to break through, then gracefully get in front of them--like a reverse Bob Cousy. And more than anything, I saw camaraderie: although the Ex-Girlfriends dominated, it was all laughs and cheers at the end, and the crowd got to hi-five all the gals as they did final victory laps.
Great family entertainment, great sport, great gals: why aren't you going? Truly an Orange County treasure (and, yes: I paid. The gals were willing to give me a press pass, but I refused, telling them I like to support worthwhile causes) Check out their website for the next match. And stand by as your favorite infernal rag figures out how we can sponsor their starting line and earn as many gratuitous plugs as possible...