Monday, 23 July 2012

Eastbourne Extreme '12: Roller Derby Tournament Review

Eastbourne Extreme – by Ginger Dread Man (aka Brad Moss - Seaside Siren's Roller Girls Referee)

Another grey, wet, day in the UK as we bounced along the motorway and made our way to Eastbourne. I came along for the ride to watch and support my team who were participating in Eastbourne Extreme, a yearly event showcasing what Eastbourne has to offer all in terms of sports, using the epically beautiful Eastbourne beach, its watersports offer, and those slightly more niche activities and sports including roller hockey, artistic skating, Parkour, and of course, Roller Derby amongst many others.

If I’m honest, I wrote the day off for being any good, I thought on our bumpy coach journey…
…I mean, bleak weather, outside gameplay, on a concrete sport court didn’t conjure the general idea of Derby in my mind and was surprised to see so many teams signed up to play.

I did however, thoroughly eat my words and wished to write a little about the event.

When we arrived the locals from Eastbourne were sweeping the puddles off of the wet track in order to aid the drying process as the Sirens arrived as one of the first teams there, curious faces looming on wondering if things would go ahead. Slowly the other skaters from Croydon Roller Derby, Beasts of Bodmin, Big Bucks High Rollers, Oxford Roller Derby and Bristol Harbour Harlots arrived. Sirens were on for the first game of the day against the not too distant Croydon team. The derby contingent of the event being arranged by the Bourne Bombshells.

The track was still wet, so warm up time prepped skaters for the newer skating conditions, getting used to their edges and the feel of the track, working out how to approach the game. The tournament was set for a 5-major limit and one thirty minute period for each game. There were no team time-outs and the games would be decided by overall points differential, highest making their way to the final.

My concern and feel, under the parameters and setting was that those who braved the weather and watched any of the games through the day would see a watered down and weak example of what derby as a sport actually looks like, not doing it any favours as it steadily pushes itself forward into more UK towns and peoples and vocabulary and dialogue.

The first whistle went and starting out slowly the game progressed surprisingly to the game I know and love. Pace quickened and hits solidified as the bout continued and skaters gained confidence. Players were going down on occasion as per regular indoor gameplay, but without any observable major damage. The sun kept poking through the cloud and the track started getting a little patchy which, as I know from my longboarding escapades, doesn’t bode well in the corners, but skaters were like ducks to..water (wet track etc…hehehe) in adapting to the temperamental track

Mosquito from Croydon was the first of the noticeable tournament victims of the grippier concrete, looking as if she’d whiplashed herself a little and she made contact to the floor, resulting in the jam being called off. Gameplay resumed shortly after and finished with Croydon, who went on the win the tournament, scoring well over the Sirens.

The court dried up at a good pace and bout after bout, gameplay was of a high standard. All teams seemed to forget they were outside and on rougher concrete and, from a spectators perspective, it did make a pleasant contrast against the usually indoor sounds and sights. This was clearly appreciated by those who walked by the ‘Derby Cage’ and watched some for a while, others for longer, no doubt being aided by the announcers’ commentary as to what’s going on and how it all works.

Sirens were back on after a few hours in a stark comparison to the mornings conditions. As per the other games, the dry conditions meant skaters moving faster and more confident leading to great gameplay with no visible difference from that of an indoor bout. Oxford Roller Derby were next to face the Sirens in the cage. Due to some power jam situations and Force Ten Gail flying around the track scoring one of the highest scoring Jams in the tournament, Sirens scored 135 by the end of the 30 minutes aiding to their differential and the well determined tight blocking of the Sirens did a stunning job of keeping Oxford at bay at 29 point

Croydon and Big Bucks faced off in the final, a really close game til the end, but Croydon managed to claw the victory by a mere 4 points over the very strong team from Buckinghamshire to win the tournament.

I came feeling tired and reluctant, but I wished to take my metaphorical ‘hat’, off to all of the teams involved and who competed against one another on the day. The derby spirit and the determination of those who clearly have a genuine passion for the sport and for each other in the derby community shone through. All battled hard and through tough opposition and terrain and some now indeed really have the scabs and soon to be scars to show for it.

This to me, is a good and encouraging sign of things to come. As derby and the UKRDA gain weight and speed, exhibitions of derby like today show that those who are involved, given initially poor playing conditions and a different gameplay format, really made the day special, ultimately showing each other, the inquisitive general public, and this pessimistic young ref what derby and the passion that courses within it all, are all about.


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