The next hot sport to reach the Baltics is one very few would suspect. Roller derby, in the form of the Riga Roller Derby team, was established in 2013 and is growing quickly.
The team is still training and seeking sponsors and equipment, as items needed for the sport are in short supply. The Riga Roller Derby team hopes to bring this growing sport to all the Baltic states, in order to compete actively in the region. At the moment, the nearest roller derby team is in Stockholm or Prague.
Under the leadership and watchful eye of coach and trainer Martins Engelis, the team is developing into a more competitive group, ready for action, describing the sport as something between American football, and hockey.
“There is a track, a simple oval, and two teams,” he explained. Each team has 4 blockers and 1 jammer and they engage in two minute bouts, or battles, wherein the teams are skating around the track. The jammer is the only one who can score points, gained every time the jammer passes one of the other team’s players on the track.
This active group of women, headed by founder Laura Kulberga, has grown from two in 2013, to about a dozen in 2015.
“We are about ten women at the moment, give or take a few, but ten regulars,” said Kulberga. “Some come and go and so forth,” she added.
The sport itself, while new to the Baltics, has been around since the 1930s, with surges in popularity since the 1970s. The sport is unique in that, since its inception, it has remained a predominately female sport, something that holds great appeal to many of the Riga Derby team.
“There’s football, hockey, and volleyball; football for women, hockey for women, and volleyball for women, but at the moment there is roller derby, and roller derby for men,” said Engelis.
Most league players have ‘derby names’ of mock-violent puns or innuendo. The teams are governed by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, with 259 full member leagues and 98 apprentice leagues, to which the Riga Roller Derby team aspires. The passion, talent, drive, and focus are there, but the team still needs sponsorship to be able to compete, have the proper equipment to make it to the big leagues.
Public practices are held regularly in Kornvalda Park, with over 20 women participating, and they invite female skaters regardless of age or ability to come and enjoy. For more information, and details on how to take part, visit the team’s Facebook page.