PHOTOS: It’s like women’s rugby, but on skates. Hong Kong Roller Derby celebrates its first birthday!

Upon hearing the term “Hong Kong Roller Derby”, you may have many questions to ask. Firstly, what is it? It’s a sport primarily played by women, that involves shoving opposing players while racing around a rink on four-wheeled skates, also known as “quads” (not to be confused with in-line skates). Points are scored during “jams”, periods of play lasting up to two minutes. Each team of five has four “blockers” and one “jammer”, and the jammers race each other around the track while the blockers try to stop the opposing team’s jammer.

Blockers preparing to stop a jammer at one of their three-times-weekly trainings

Secondly, this exists in Hong Kong? Yes. It does. And the league is celebrating its first anniversary this week.

Lastly, where can you witness the sport in action? Unfortunately, the league is still in its infancy so the girls have not had any games yet. But you can help put them on the fast track to success by attending their birthday party / fundraising concert this Friday, It’s Only Jam Rock N’ Roll at The Hangout in Sai Wan Ho.

Practicing safe shoving

Hong Kong Roller Derby was founded by 24-year-old bubbly American Ali Gendry, who only began playing the sport four years ago in her home state of Connecticut. Fresh out of university, she moved to Hong Kong for an English-teaching opportunity two years ago. After discovering the roller sports community in Hong Kong (or lack of), she was inspired to start her own roller derby league—not an easy feat considering quads aren’t even sold in Hong Kong.

The jammer (second from the left) trying to get through four blockers

She recruited her best friend, who she introduced to the sport via the movie “Whip It”. Starring Ellen Pagethe, it is the cinematic bible of roller derby and directorial debut of Drew Barrymore:

She was instantly sold, and Gendry had her first recruit. As word spread she found expats who had played in their home countries, as well as adventurous women willing to learn from scratch.

Blockers can also pull jammers to stop them

But the growth of Hong Kong Roller Derby is not organic; Gendry and other roller derby enthusiasts have carefully planned how the league will develop. They have just registered as a society in Hong Kong, fulfilling a requirement to become certified with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the global governing body of the sport.

Skating on quads is harder than it looks

They’ve also created a 12-week training course in order to prepare players for a mandatory WFTDA assessment, teaching players to skate on quads and to shove other players legally and safely. When they have enough qualified players, they will then create teams so that they can begin to compete.

In formation

“I was kind of scared at first,” Gendry said. “No one wants to be the first to start something!” But with 14 players and counting and four coaches, all with a fierce passion for the sport, we’re confident they’ll be filling stadiums soon enough.

Make sure you head to their first birthday party “It’s Only Jam Rock N’ Roll” this Friday at the Hangout in Sai Wan Ho! Local bands, including Shepherd the Weak, Pray For Me, and Seasons for Change, will be playing. 

Tickets: HKD180 at the door, HKD150 in advance, HKD120 for students

Address:  2 Holy Cross Road, Sai Wan Ho

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