G.I. Renegade Rollerz all about competing, women’s empowerment, community

  • Nick Celario / The Garden Island

    Member of local roller derby club G.I. Renegade Rollerz stop for a photo Thursday at the Kapaa Roller Rink. Pictured: Anni Caporuscio aka Violent No Regards, Tara Dalessi aka Manic Mermaid, Joanna Maltas aka Hot Wheels, Jenna Dunn aka Slaying Mantis, Mary Bransom aka Winosaur, Mele Khalsa aka Melee, Eden Noble aka Nobull Crush, coach Jonathan Kalk aka Mr. Knocks, Lauren Andrade aka Laurengitis, Loni Delaplane aka Goldie Knocks, Danielle Davis aka Whiskey Sourpuss, Monique Chow aka Darling Nikki and Levana Lomma aka Hot Lava.

  • Eric Leifer / Contributed photo

    Danielle Davis goes through the skater tunnel following a game at a roller derby tournament in Hilo, in this June 3 photo.

  • Eric Leifer / Contributed photo

    Blockers Loni Delaplane and Kristen Green block an opposing jammer during a roller derby tournament in Hilo, in this June 3 photo.

KAPAA — Rainy conditions dampened Thursday’s practice at the Kapaa Roller Rink, but everybody was still all laughs and all smiles.

“We’re doing our new skater training right now. We do it every year, once a year, starting in the fall,” said club member Mele Khalsa. “We’re right in the thick of it right now.”

Local roller derby club Garden Island Renegade Rollerz is preparing for the upcoming season.

The club has about 20 members and is training new members.

“We have been club for nine years here on the island,” said Khalsa, 31, of Hanapepe. “We do have some girls skating with us who were there at its beginning and are still skating with us today. That is pretty cool.”

Roller derby is a contact sport played between teams of five roller skating on a track.

The jammer, designated with a star on the player’s helmet, scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. Blockers and pivots, a blocker who can convert to the jammer during play, attempt to block the opposing jammer or can assist their own jammer.

“You’re stopping the other players by knocking them down or knocking them out of bounds,” Khalsa said. “You get points by passing the opposing players. You have to pass them inbounds, so there’s boundaries on the track. If you get knocked out of bounds, you have to go back behind them.”

Khalsa joined the club about seven years ago without prior roller derby experience.

“I joined here. Growing up, I played soccer and everything,” she said. “When I went away to college, I got involved in rugby. I really loved playing rugby. It was super fun. It got me into the full contact sport thing. It was a good segue from soccer.

“As I got older, I realized I really just don’t like running. I don’t know. I played soccer, but I was never really great at it. I really liked doing the full contact part of rugby, but I wasn’t crazy about the running part. So, enter roller derby. It’s a really fun way to get exercise, still get my full contact itch out and I don’t have to run at all. It’s really nice. Skating’s way easier than running.”

A unique aspect of roller derby is the use of derby names.

“It’s like your persona or alter ego,” said club member Danielle Davis, 31, of Kalaheo. “It empowers you. It’s fun and it’s quirky.”

Davis’ derby name is “Whiskey Sourpuss.” Khalsa’s derby name is “Melee.”

“My name has multiple meanings,” Davis said. “I have a tattoo of a whisk. I like whiskey. Sometimes I’m grumpy, and I also like cats.”

Davis joined the club two years ago and was once a team captain.

“Sports Authority was just closing. I was like, ‘I’m going to get a cheap pair of skates just because they’re on markdown,’” Davis said. “One of my co-workers was like, ‘You should go join roller derby.’ I was like, ‘What? They have that here?’ So I looked into it, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll join.’”

A memorable moment, Davis said, was when she played as a pivot and during play she became the jammer.

“I had a moment where the jammer passed me the star, and I skated away. I put it on my head. I was like, ‘I’m really doing it. Oh, my god,’” she said. “It was the coolest feeling ever. I just wanted to do it again.”

New club members are required to pay $40 for training. Additional costs may include gear, but the club does have some used equipment for loan.

Essential gear include skates, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmets and mouth guards.

G.I. Renegade Rollerz practices twice a week at the Kapaa Hockey Rink.

League practices start around January, and the roller derby season begins in March and runs through the summer leading up to state championships around September or October, Khalsa said.

During the season, the Kauai club plays against other clubs from Hawaii.

“We try to host teams here, at least one (event) a year. We try to have as many as we can,” Khalsa said. “Often times, we try to bring multiple teams and have double- or triple-headers. We’ll have a tournament weekend. And then, we travel inter-island quite a bit to play other teams as well.”

Khalsa said the nonprofit club holds fundraisers to offset travel costs.

“It’s purely because we love it, but we’re not just a sports team either,” Khalsa said. “I feel like roller derby, especially our team, is about women’s empowerment in a lot of ways. We’re a women-run, women-led team. We try to do as many community events as we can to get ourselves out there as strong, female leaders in the community as well.”

G.I. Renegade Rollerz also has a junior roller derby co-ed program for girls and boys ages 7-17.

Khalsa added people can join not just as player but also referees, scoring officials, volunteers, or can just hang out with “an awesome bunch of kick-ass women.”

“It’s definitely physically demanding, but it’s so much fun. We really have an amazing team. That’s the cool thing about it,” she said. “It’s not just about getting exercise. It’s also about building positive relationships with other women in a really strong, empowering way.”

Info: joingirr@gmail.com

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Nick Celario can be reached at ncelario@thegardenisland.com.

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