Travel Blog

25 Mar

Roller Derby, Beer and Star Wars-Themed Revelry at WSSF 2017

Guest Author: Amber Turnau

Whistler is home to every adrenaline-fueled adventure imaginable, but sometimes it’s the unexpected sports that surprise you the most. Enter roller derby: the high intensity, hard hitting, fastest growing women’s sport in the world.

Return of the Jam…And a New Hope

For the fifth year in a row, the roller skate reigns supreme at the World Ski Snowboard Festival as Whistler plays host to its annual invitational roller derby bout. “Scar Wars” storms the Whistler Conference Centre April 8, bringing with it a powerful force that is guaranteed to bring fans to the derby side. And yes, there’s even a Princess Slayah.

Apex Pistols Roller Derby Team on Court

Fast, thrilling, strong. The Apex Pistols are ready. PHOTO SEAN ST DENIS

This year, the Sea To Sky Apex Pistols (a team comprised of top Squamish and Whistler women’s players) will take on Vancouver’s Smokin’ Laces. For the first time ever, this will be followed by a men’s grudge match between the Vancouver Murder and the Puget Sound Outcasts – both in the Top 10 rankings of the Men’s Roller Derby Association.

What could possibly be better than derby, beer and Star Wars-themed revelry?

The annual WSSF invitational is a favourite among the roller derby community and fans alike. It’s arguably one of the last high production derby bouts left in Canada as the evolution of the sport worldwide has lead to a stronger emphasis on the athletic aspects of the game, rather than the spectacle of it all.

Apex Pistol's jammer shakes loose. PHOTO BUZZ HENCZEL / UNIQUE FOCUSFull contact. PHOTO SEAN ST DENISBig girl pants time. This ain't no tea party. PHOTO BUZZ HENCZEL / UNIQUE FOCUSApex Pistols players, ready to roll. PHOTO SEAN ST DENIS

Sea to Sky’s Derby Roots Run Deep

Roller derby has a long history in the Sea to Sky Corridor. It all kicked off with Squamish’s Sea to Sky Sirens nine years ago, followed by Whistler’s own Black Diamond Betties in 2011. Like many start up teams across the globe, the Betties started their foray into roller derby in covered parking garages and tennis courts around town. The struggle was real. No coach, no practice venue, and no previous roller derby experience. Just a few pairs of beat up second-hand skates, a fascination for the sport, and a dream that one day, they would be playing for the home crowd. It seemed so far off.

But, flash forward a few years and the scrappy Whistler start-up soon turned into a force to be reckoned with. They fundraised hard, purchased a special sport court and campaigned tirelessly to host their home bout at WSSF. To this day, a number of the team’s OGs remain, having transformed over the years from “Bambis on skates” to seasoned powerhouses with fancy footwork, solid hits and impressive agility.

roller derby player lines up for start

Like a ballet, with brute force. PHOTO SEAN ST DENIS

The Sirens and Betties have deep roots together and have skated on the same track countless times – sometimes as rivals and sometimes as teammates. In fact, a number of Betties are also card-carrying Sirens too. They’re affectionately known as the Sirens of the North.

The Apex Pistols might be all jokes and smiles as they skate out in sequins and costume, but this team is stacked with veteran talent –  and a few up and comers too.

Fierce Warrior Women

It’s not only the mountains that bind this group of strong, fearless women together– it’s resiliency too. They are moms, artists, fashionistas, scientists, taxi drivers, social workers, waitresses, marketers, photographers, baristas and massage therapists by day. By night, they’re fierce warrior women.

Apex Pistols Player on Bench

Underestimate these players at your peril. PHOTO SEAN ST DENIS

Watch for the new mom, Spunky Monkey, who got back on skates just months after giving birth. Or Va Va Voom La Doom – who is coming back from a serious collar bone injury last year. Or Purrfect Lee Legal, who overcame a devastating broken leg and rebounded stronger and tougher than ever. And of course, the infamous WSSF bout would not happen every year without the dedication and tenacity of the lovely Gold E. Blocks.

The list of challenges overcome, battle scars and moments of mental strength permeates the team – and is too long to reconcile here. But know that you are about to watch one hell of a fight.

Tickets to the Scar Wars bout start at just $15 and are available online now. Interested in learning more about how to get involved with the sport of roller derby? Follow the Black Diamond Betties or the Sea to Sky Sirens on Facebook!

May the derby force be with you.

And you thought the World Ski Snowboard Festival was all about snow – ha! Get in and check out the WSSF 2017 schedule to be blown away by the variety of art, filmmaking, photography and talks on offer. Get your tickets and accommodation ASAP, it’s going to be a popular 10 days.  

Knock ’em dead, girls. PHOTO SEAN ST DENIS

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