BREMERTON — She acknowledges it is a unique contrast.
Port Orchard’s Aimee Durgan, who coaches and competes with the Northwest Derby Company, works as a head server at best-selling author Debbie Macomber’s Victorian Rose Tea Room.
“I spend my day in a pink dollhouse waiting on little old ladies, feeding them tea and sandwiches,” Durgan said with a laugh. “Then I come here and knock people down at night.”
Here is Skateland in Bremerton. Northwest Derby Company competed at Sk8town in Port Orchard until that business shuttered earlier this year when a bank evicted the tenants at 1501 Piperberry Way.
“We miss our home rink, but this rink has been extremely welcoming,” Durgan said. “They’ve been really good to us and we’ve been able to pick up right where we left off. It caused no interference in our season. We were really lucky.”
While Durgan misses the crowds at Sk8town, which she said dwarf those at the current location, the centralized Kitsap County venue has buoyed participation. Durgan said 24 women pre-registered for their Aug. 2 orientation.
“We’re getting a lot more North Kitsap and Bremerton recruits than we did ever in Port Orchard,” she said. “Before our whole team was Port Orchard with a small handful of Bremerton girls.”
Among those was 20-year-old Olympic High School graduate Brianna Carlson. She was at Skateland in March when she noticed the team working out.
“I was just in awe of the skills they had that I was like, ‘I have to do that,’ ” she said.
Carlson enrolled in the Northwest Derby Company’s three-month “internship” program. That runs twice per week on Sunday and Wednesday nights, and new skaters must attend a minimum of 21 practices to complete the program.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s immensely rewarding and a lot of fun,” Carlson said. “The ladies are great.”
Carlson now is eligible to suit up when the team resumes play in October — but she is in the minority. While 20 women registered for the last internship program, Durgan said only seven completed it and one later left because of other obligations.
“If we keep 10 of them we would be very happy,” she said.
Among those trying out were a few skaters who did not complete the previous internship. But the majority were newcomers or others, such as 26-year-old Kingston resident Courtney Trask, whose blue hair stood out among the orientation crowd at the Skateland cafeteria. Trask long has dreamed of competing in roller derby — she planned to try out in 2010 for Kitsap County’s original team, the now-defunct Slaughter County Roller Vixens, which were based in Port Orchard, before she sustained an ankle injury and then moved out of the area.
But as Trask watched Durgan (a.k.a. “Brawlyanna”) glide around the rink with the Vixens, she was impressed.
“I’ve seen Brawley bout before,” she said. “I know she’s a really great skater. I’m looking forward to learning new things from her.”
The internship, Durgan said, is designed to teach the basics: skating and roller-derby rules, safety and requirements.
Roller derby competes on the same oval rink as skaters. But there is one significant distinction: it is a full-contact sport. For the bouts, five skaters from each team can be on the rink simultaneously. Each team has five members: a jammer, three blockers and a pivot.
The pivot controls the speed of the pack, while the jammer attempts to break through and score points by passing opposing players. Blockers, of course, try to prevent the other team’s jammer from passing. Similar to a defensive back defending a receiver in football, there are rules that limit a blocker’s ability to hold up a jammer. For example, a blocker cannot trip a defender.
Contests are divided into two 30-minute periods and further into “jams,” which last a maximum of two minutes.
Earlier this year, the Northwest Derby Company was accepted into the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). WFTDA is an international governing body of women’s flat track roller derby. Durgan said that will allow the team to compete for international rankings.
Northwest Derby Company is a non-profit corporation. The founders met for the first time on Dec 8, 2011, and the first bout was February 2012. Northwest Derby Company competes from February-June and again in September-October. Durgan said her team plays eight home matches and two or three on the road each year.
Durgan, who has competed in roller derby for nearly a decade, said the women who compete usually range from 19 to 45 years old and run the gamete from politically conservative to liberal. As for Durgan, she attended a Rat City Rollergirls match in Seattle and was prepared to try out for them until she saw a flier advertising the Slaughter County Roller Vixens.
“It just felt like fate,” she said.
Without delving into details, Durgan said she was in “this weird spot” in her life and is grateful she found roller derby.
“It taught me how to be a leader and it helped me work on my interpersonal communication skills,” she said. “It gave me more confidence.”
Durgan hopes the sport can do the same for others.
“As long as you have the will to do it — because it’s really hard — it can change your life in the most positive way,” she said. “It’s so much fun. The atmosphere and the community we create is unique. It’s welcoming and you feel very engaged. It’s very empowering.
“Anybody that is kind of a little bit lost or is going through a big transition in their lives should probably check out roller derby.”