What is roller derby?

“It’s a full contact sport with both offense and defense, all played on skates.” – No-Pants Pixie

“Learning confidence one fall at a time.” – Ivana Hurtya

“A bunch of badass women kicking butt on roller skates.” – Southern Belladonna

Lauryn Kill fell in love with roller derby in Sweden, and continued skating with a league in Germany. When she decided to move to Shanghai, the first thing she did was look up the local roller derby team. She found a small group of dedicated roller skaters, in a league called Shanghai Roller Derby.

The team, Shang-High Rollers, was founded in 2012 by former members of UK roller derby team Dolly Rockit Rollers: Afronaut and Koko Kabama. As the first roller derby team in China, Shang-High Rollers have faced a lot of uphill battles. Chief amongst them has been retaining an adequate number of members in the transient city that is Shanghai. In the past, most of the members have been expats mostly due to the fact that roller derby is relatively unknown in the Middle Kingdom.

However, the team is working hard to spread the word about roller derby and gain more Chinese members. The main goal is to have a consistent group of committed women who practice regularly enough to achieve the minimum skills needed to participate in bouts – yes, that is what a roller derby match is called!- with teams in Beijing, Hong Kong, Japan and the rest of SE Asia.

Roller Derby is Catching on in China

“Success in roller derby comes down to three main skills: being supremely comfortable on your skates, awareness on the track, and team work,” says Herschel Stalker, one of the team’s coaches. “We regularly run drills to practice these skills even without the number of skaters needed for a full bout.” The Shang-High Rollers would love to see the sport grow in China. “We want to meet other Asian leagues and help roller derby to be known across China. I dream of building a real Asian roller derby network,” says Ivana Hurtya.

To achieve this, the team has been focusing hard on recruiting new skaters. They hold a social skate night every Wednesday at Minxin Roller Rink where new skaters can come and learn the basics of roller derby along with how to stay upright on skates. At Ladyfest, in March, they held a sock derby workshop where people were invited to try roller derby without skates on.

Southern Belladonna is one of the ladies who found the team on that day. “I’ve been interested in derby since I saw that Ellen Page movie, Whip It. But I never thought of doing it seriously,” she says. “Then I found the Shang-High Rollers at Ladyfest, and so I decided to join the first social skate. I hadn’t skated in forever! Like, since I was seven and came home so bruised that my mom made me sleep on ice packs.

Roller derby is more than just sport, it’s community

I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the other skaters and that they would think I was lame. But it was the exact opposite! Everyone was so sweet and helpful, and it was very empowering! I felt like not only could I skate decently, but that I was an actual badass roller derby girl – and only after the first practice!”

“I really hope we can get more Chinese people interested in roller derby,” says Lauryn Kill. “Being part of derby has brought so many good things to my life. Teamwork and community, confidence on and off the track, and, last but not least, quite a few picturesque bruises.”

Apart from roller derby players, the Shangh-High Rollers are looking for people who are interested in helping out in other ways. This includes refereeing – either on or off skates – being a mascot, a jeerleader (a bit like a cheerleader but more menacing) or just being a fan.

Get in touch with these awesome girls via WeChat: SHrollerderby for more info on how to get involved!

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