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Slaughter County Roller Vixens bring roller derby to Kitsap
With her blonde hair billowing and roller skates squealing, Wendy Vermeers glides through a pack of elbow-throwing competitors.
As a rink-side announcer chants her stage name, she dodges shoulders and hips and elbows, scoring points.
She is Nerd Rage.
“The one thing about roller derby is it’s the cheapest therapy around,” joked Vermeers, who prefers her somewhat oxymoronic stage name to any other. “It’s a rush, it’s an adrenaline rush. It’s a test of your endurance, it’s a test of your will. It kind of puts you out there and makes you feel like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’ve got a job to do and I’ve got to get moving.’”
Vermeers is a member of the Slaughter County Roller Vixens, a Kitsap County-based flat track roller derby league comprised of three teams — The Death Rattle Rollers, The Terrormedixxx and an All-Star team. She joined the league in October 2006 when it arrived to Kitsap, becoming a lead skater for both The Death Rattle Rollers and the All-Stars.
The mother of two, who wears No. 42 because “it’s the answer to life, universe and everything, according to (the book) ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,’” will be the featured skater when the All-Star team clashes with an Oregon-based squad Saturday. The Wizard of Oz-themed “There’s No Place Like Home” is the final bout of the season. An additional group of Kitsap skaters, The SCRV Dorothys, will take on the Lilac City Shewolves.
Vermeers said flat track roller derby, contrary to popular belief, is more strategic than physical. There are 10 skaters on the floor — five per side — and the goal for each team is to score points by getting their “lead jammer” through the opposing team’s “pack.”
The pack consists of four skaters who skate around the rink and form a wall to prevent the jammer from breaking through. Each two-minute round begins with a whistle, at which time the pack begins to skate. Twenty seconds later, a second whistle allows the jammer to take off. The first team to get a jammer through the pack earns “lead jammer” status, giving it the opportunity to score.
Penalties are issued for infractions such as holding, tripping, illegal blocking, deliberately falling as a method to block, and grabbing a skater from the ground.
“We don’t necessarily go out there to bust heads; that’s not the objective of the game,” Vermeers said. “The objective is to play with conduct and to score points. If we knock people around in the process, then it’s entertaining as well.”
The SCRV league is self-sustaining, meaning its members must coordinate event times and dates, put up and take down bout-day decor, prepare and clean the rink. Fundraisers and out-of-pocket expenses cover the costs.
“There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes on with a good show,” said Paul Avis, who handles photography and bout-day preparations for SCRV.
Roller derby entertainment isn’t limited to the game itself; derby girls select their own stage names based on the persona they wish to portray, a sometimes comical but otherwise serious process.
Members of the Death Rattle Rollers include Miss Direction, Knock’er Socks Off, The Dreadful Dodger and Ruby Rotten.
“You want to be seen as a tough entity,” Vermeers said.