OC Roller Girls switching high heels for skates

The Crash Bunnies hit the tracks against the Rolling Knockouts. For more information on their upcoming bouts go to ocrollergirls.com. (Photo Courtesy of JM IV Photography)

Women are switching high heels for skates and getting down on the tracks.

After dropping off her teenage son at basketball practice, Angela Darensborug changes out of her “mommy” clothes and into a new persona. Dressed in black from head to toe, her cheeks dabbed in pink rose blush, she joins a cadre of women squatting, balancing and lunging around the center of a wooden track. Cracking jokes, sweating and grunting, Darensborug transforms into the battle-tested roller girl Coocoo 4 Coco.

More than 200 women practice in a dingy warehouse on south Main Street in Santa Ana.

The facade of brick and stucco belies the intense action, guttural sounds, physical pain and range of emotions going on inside its walls.

Outside, a logo stamped on the bumper of a car parked beside St. Andrew Street illustrates a black and white punk-like image of a tough woman’s face, surrounded by letters reading OC Roller Girls.

Walking in with duffle bags, women of every size, slim and tall assemble, greeting one
another in excited voices with only one topic on their minds: roller derby.

“If someone gets a good hit on me, my first reaction is ‘I got to get them,’” Darensborug said, with a wide grin across her face.

Behind the protection gear accented by nail polish, make-up and a mashup of tattoos and net stockings, you get a direct insight about the real game, which is far from cheating theatrics associated with the movie Whip It!

Inside their chilly cement training chambers is a banked track that two of the referees built themselves. Women on four-wheel skates lap around in packs, bumping, inter-locking arms and plummeting onto the floor.

When the armor is off, they work day jobs as nurses, engineers, reporters and mothers.

“Someone would ask ‘does anyone know how to fix a leaking toilet?’ and it turns out that one of the girls or the girl’s husband is a plumber,” said Catherine “Shaolin Punk” Kozlowski, a referee who works as an attorney outside the rink.

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Balancing responsibilities is something women have been doing for years, said Professor Angelina Veyna, SAC’s ethnic studies department chair.

“Sometimes we have to do double duty,” said Veyna who also teaches a class on women in U.S. history. “Yes, you can go participate in the roller derby as long as you finish your domestic task before. So sometimes we have an added burden as women that the men don’t get in terms of going into sports.”

The sport begins with two teams of five each including the jammer, who is the only scorer that passes opposite blocker members for points. Darensborug plays as one of the four blockers whose objectives are to stop the jammer from weaving through and scoring.

Beginning skaters train through programs by joining their Fresh Meat and Fresh Squeeze teams.

“The training program is awesome,” said Tiffany “Stella Stryker” Ortamon. “They take women with all different ability levels and body types.”

As a former member of the U.S. Army and a full-time student, Ortamon is tackling her four-page skills assessment given to beginners.

Those interested in joining can email membership@ocrollergirls.com to find out about the next orientation meeting. Everyone who joins must have personal health insurance and pay an $80 monthly fee. It’s not limited to women, men can join too. New members must have their own skates and protective gear, but sometimes loaners are available. Costs vary between skate models. Dirty Deborah Harry runs the OC Roller Skates. Check out the merchandise at ocrollerskates.com. The co-ed team Chorizo and Eggs and men’s team ManArchy, is slowly gaining speed and accepting anyone interested. The OC Roller Juniors accept members ranging from 8 to 17-years-old.

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