Let’s get ready to rooollllleeeerrr! Derby, that is. March is around the corner, leering its head just in time to be bashed in by our own women warriors, the Santa Cruz Derby Girls (SCDG). But before they can kick off their season opener on March 16, a sacred tradition must be upheld to please the goddesses of skate: the annual SCDG Pub Crawl.
“We have over 100 league members, from officials to skaters, refs and volunteers” says Harbor Hellcat skater Eileen Hill or—as she’s more commonly known on the track—Sharon D. Payn. “So it’s a great time for all of us to get together, go out and promote the new season.”
Beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 1, this year’s crawl starts at Abbott Square and will happily stagger its way down Pacific Avenue. Drink and meal specials will be offered to fuel supporters along the way. For those who really want to try their luck, keep plenty of cash ready for the fan favorite Arm-Wrestle-A-Derby-Girl-For-A-Dollar competition. The night culminates at the Blue Lagoon for a few more hours of drinking and dancing. At least, for those still standing.
“Since it’s the last stop, we’re always excited to see who makes it to the end,” Hill says. “Whoever does always gets mad props. Hopefully I will.”
With 470 leagues in the international Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), SCDG are kicking off this season ranked No. 15 in the world (the kids’ team, the Santa Cruz Derby Groms, are the champs at No. 1 in their division). If that’s not enough to rock the black and blue crew, Santa Cruz has the second-highest-ranking league in the state, right behind—*hard sigh*—Los Angeles.
“We’ve been here since before the Warriors, so if you think about it, we are Santa Cruz’s first sports team,” Hill says. “And we’ve been so lucky to have such a great fan base.”
Since the league’s founding in 2009, the Santa Cruz Derby Girls have been a nonprofit and give back to the community throughout their season. Each year they also pick one other local nonprofit program to promote and fundraise for. This year, they have decided on the Santa Cruz SPCA, continuing from last year, with proceeds from each bout going to the animal rescue organization. Adoptable dogs go to the games, too.
“We’ve built a positive culture around what we call our ‘happy little team,’” says Boardwalk Bombshells Captain Regan Eymann. “And of course roller derby is fun, but we’re in it to win.”
She’s quick to note that 2019 is the 11th season for SCDG, and a lot has changed since the league’s early days. When they first started, the games were quick and violent, partly because nobody knew what they were doing.
“Part of the reason games were fast is because people didn’t have control,” Eymann says. “They didn’t know how to stop very well.”
As time went on, athletes honed their skill and strategy. What they didn’t expect was the ticket sales slumps that came after the games began to get longer and more drawn out. But more recently, they think they’ve found the winning formula.
To kick the season up a notch further, every home game bout will be a double-header—twice the derby for one price. A March 16 opening game will feature one of the league’s B teams, the Seabright Sirens, against Sacramento’s Bruin Trouble, followed by something fresh for fans. By combining the A team, Boardwalk Bombshells and B team Harbor Hellcats, SCDG has created a 30-woman, All-Star team to face off head-to-head during the second game of opening day.
“You’re going to get to see the second-best roller derby team in California skate against each other,” Eymann says, clearly ecstatic about the prospect. “It’s going to be hard-hitting, and a lot of fun.”
Santa Cruz Derby Girls will host their season-opening SCDG Pub Crawl beginning at 6 p.m. on March 16 at Abbott Square. santacruzderbygirls.org.