After a year of skating in a beginner-level flat track group, I was frustrated. Most of my friends had leveled up. Some folks just wanted to stay in beginner for the workout, which is cool. But I wanted to get to scrimmage, to hit, to play. I always did better when I paired with a premier-league skater in practice – I brought my skating up as close to that level as I could, which was exhilarating. But that didn’t happen nearly enough.
After about six weeks of banked track lessons, I had a chance to take part in a two-day clinic. Our lesson leader said it’s always a good idea to try to train with different coaches to see how it will affect one’s learning curve, so I decided to go.
It was by far the most difficult practicing I’d ever done. Clinics are often geared toward beginner skaters, but about half of the San Angelo derby squad attended, as did several folks from the level two lesson group. I was completely and utterly out of my comfort zone both days.
And I loved it!
I’m not ready for the big time yet, but working out with more experienced skaters was so rewarding. After Day 1, I was encouraged to come to Wreck League practices. I went to one and was intimidated, for sure, but in the end inspired.
I got to do some hitting in the clinic, and some work on advanced drills in agility. I was frustrated at first by my weaknesses, but the other women were awesome – they all cheered when I worked my way through a zig-zag hitting drill that was about an 11 on the difficulty scale.
I skated 10 hours that weekend – my usual practice, the clinic, Wreck League and a skating birthday party. So. Much. Fun.
I’m still excited. I know I won’t be picked to join a league any time soon, but I’ll be attending tryouts anyway. I want to see what it’s like. I want to get out of my comfort zone again.
I want to BE MORE FAB.
So why am I changing it up? I’ve got good friends in the flat track community. We volunteer at bouts. We skate together through the streets of Austin on hot days, then swim and get cold drinks. We make signs for new skaters. It’s a fun bunch of folks.
Derby seemed to epitomize the DIY ethos I love so much: homemade boutfits, volunteers staffing bouts and preparing venues, practices in hot warehouses. I love the sisterhood.
When I went to my first banked track bout in 2013, I didn’t really care for it. I was used to doubleheaders, with straight-ahead skating and not much kitsch. So the singleheader, pillow fight and tug-of-war filled bout wasn’t really satisfying at the time. When 2014 came around, I signed up for my usual rec league and got back on the volunteer train.
But I found myself fidgeting at bouts. The more straight-ahead spectacle of flat track failed to hold my attention. When I gave in to Mr. Fab and left after watching just one half of a bout at a doubleheader, I realized I should give banked track another chance.
This year, I’ve loved attending those banked track bouts. The crowd is closer to the action. People go flying over the rails (sometimes). And the kitsch. Oh, the glorious kitsch. Boutfits, helmets that don’t necessarily match – it’s all so much fun.
I didn’t ever dream of actually getting on that track and trying it out for myself. Now, a couple of months into it, I’m thinking of going through with a tryout for the league. I know I won’t make it, but I want to see what it’s like.
I started flat track rec league last January. It was fun, but ultimately frustrating. I just couldn’t get out of the Primer level, even though I could perform enough of the skills. It was getting boring. Instead of getting to watch, skate with and learn from better skaters, every time a new session would start I’d be back with the beginners. This was not satisfying.
I decided to take this summer off from rec. The practice warehouse was hot, anyway, with precious little air circulation. Heat and I don’t get along all that well. For the first month of the summer, it was speed skating on Fridays, skate park on Saturdays and maybe adult night on Tuesdays. Not bad. But a trip to the skate shop in June got me excited about a new venture: banked-track lessons, and possibly “wreck” league.
The first day of lessons, I didn’t know how to get on the track. The one woman I knew at practice showed me how, so I managed to get from off-track to the infield no problem. After a few minutes of greetings, general instructions and tips, we were off! I’d never skated on the banked track, so I was a little wary, but I decided the best thing to do was to just get up on it.
So fun! The first couple of weeks I felt a bit like Bambi on the frozen pond, but because I had a year of skating behind me I found myself getting comfortable with a quickness. The same things that have been hard for me in flat track – turnaround transitions, drunken sailors (a drill involving a crossover on every step) – are still hard for me. But I’m getting better. A lot better. A lot FASTER.
The skate shop owner, a skater herself, says she always recommends that folks try BOTH types if possible, to see if one or the other is a better fit. Last year, I’d not even considered the possibility of skating banked. Now, I can’t imagine NOT skating banked.