Pressed against the edge of the Earl Warren Showgrounds and cornered between brush and horse trailers sits an outdoor roller rink. If that’s not already a surprise, here comes surprise number two: Santa Barbara has a roller derby team.
Yes, the Mission City Brawlin’ Betties, as they’re called, practice every Saturday afternoon amidst the showgrounds’ gem fairs, steeple chases, and racehorse gambling. And though it might not be the most popular sport in Santa Barbara, roller derby and the Brawlin’ Betties are nothing to joke about.
For those unfamiliar with roller derby, players join together to race around a flat track. Each team’s jammer (or scorer) then attempts to lap the pack of skaters; the team with the most laps wins. Aside from the rules of the game, players also skate with a tough image, reflected in their catchy yet intimidating rollergirl names. The Betties themselves have everyone from Mourning After Kill to Trixie Wrecks.
“Out here we call each other by our derby names,” a tall blonde Bettie Crackher said. “I don’t even know some of the girls’ real last names.”
Dita de los Muertos, the Betties coach and also Ventura Derby Darlin’, formed the team this past year to expand Central Coast derby. The Betties skate in as Santa Barbara’s first-ever all-female, full-contact roller derby team. According to the team’s website, “Every Brawlin’ Bettie is an athlete, a pin-up girl, a rocker, and a brute rolled into one badass derby girl.” These girls have to be tough to endure what happens out on the rink.
“People are usually surprised when I tell them I play derby,” Crackher said. “Then they always ask, ‘Is it real?'”
Roller derby isn’t just a dainty skate around the rink with your girlfriends; rollergirls are vulnerable to serious injury just as in any other full-contact sport, which is why the Brawlin’ Betties host team trials to ensure each player can endure such play. To become a Bettie, each player must pass certain agility tests: timed lap trials, various braking techniques, strength to take a hit, and sprints across the track. If a 50-meter sprint in skates seems hard, imagine topping off the sprint with leg lifts while also wearing 10-pound skates. Still think these girls are kidding around?
“We’re a camaraderie of women not afraid to be strong and independent,” Crackher said.
From Crackher’s words, the Betties have another motto: Every powerful intelligent woman has a little Bettie in her just waiting to be unleashed. As serious as they are about roller derby, the Betties are just as serious about their work outside of derby. The team roster lists women that are UCSB graduate students, civil attorneys, geologists, teachers, and artists, a group of women who have come together this past season.
“Watching the growth of the social and competitive aspects of these players has been the most rewarding,” coach Dita de los Muertos said. “I’ll probably pull all my hair out, but it’ll be awesome to see them play.”
The Betties will host their first bout against Ventura this summer at 2:30 p.m. on July 18 at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased at the door. For more information about the team or the event, contact email@example.com or see the team’s MySpace page.