When I arrived in New Orleans on Friday I thought I might find jazz, cajun food and southern hospitality – but I didn’t expect roller derby.
My host Jenn treated us to an afternoon of high-octane entertainment on Saturday, complete with tailgate party, as the local Crescent Wenches took on the visiting Mississippi Rollergirls.
I vaguely recall seeing footage from the 1970s of a far more theatrical version of women on wheels, but there’s certainly nothing staged about this modern incarnation.
The sport has undergone an explosion of popularity since its revival around the turn of the century and it’s far from the chaotic feminine free-for-all it once was.
The participants are athletic, the pace frenetic and the contact genuine – it’s an impressive and well-supported spectactle.
The International governing body, Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), now boasts 259 member and 99 apprentice leagues worldwide, of which the New Orleans-based Big Easy Rollergirls are a founding member.
The organisation’s catch cry is they will ‘Skate Through Hell and High Water’, a reference to its and the area’s difficult recovery from the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Read more about the Big Easy Rollergirls, or click here for an insightful article by academic and Arizona-based skater Devoney Looser in which she explores the relationship between the sport, its spectators and the future of feminism.