The indispensable equipment in Roller Derby
Roller derby requires indispensable pieces of equipment:
- Quad skates
- Knee pads
- Elbow pads
- Wrist guards
There are different types of quad skates according to the different disciplines: high heel boots, flat boots, sneaker boots...
Some skates are specifically designed for the practice of roller derby. The typical derby skate has a low-cut leather (or carbon) boot with laces and a rigid outer sole.
Brands designing derby skate models are Bont, Antik, Riedell, Crazy Skates, Suregrip... (non-exhaustive list).
Prices go from 100€ for entry level pairs, to models exceeding 500€ — even 800€ for personalized skates (colors/name/number). Such a price gap is due to the difference of quality of the boot, the type of plate (nylon or aluminum), the bearings, the type of wheels.
For a first pair and for normal use, entry level skates are more than enough. Most freshmeats (beginners) skate with the Riedell R3s, for example.
The main problem is that shops have a hard time keeping up with their stocks to face demands. Some skateshops make discounts for skaters licensed in roller derby leagues, clubs or associations (on membership card display).
Some derby skaters also practice with sneaker quads. This type of skates is interesting if you don't do derby only. It is a customized set-up: You can choose the sneakers, the plates, the bearings and the wheels, but it is more expensive, at least 160€. However, most derby skaters who opted at first for that type of set-up also bought derby-type skates afterwards.
Think about getting toe caps to protect the tip of your skates from falls and slips. Duck tape can also do the trick or you can make DIY toe caps yourself!
If you mainly practice outside, think about investing in wheels suitable for abrasive surfaces. They are softer than indoor wheels and have a better grip and better absorption on uneven surfaces: About 4€/wheel for Krypto Impulses and up to nearly 8€ for Krypto Panames or Suregrip Motions.
As for bearings (already included in full derby skate kits), ABEC-5 is more than enough (and branded bearings are not necessary).
Knee pads are the most important protective gear in roller derby. Indeed, falling is an integral part of the sport and knees are put to a considerable strain. Choose well and forget about entry level models.
- A wide protective surface (in order to slide on the ground)
- A plastic cap — no anti-abrasion type surface!
- A close fit (you don't want them to slip when you fall)
- A good foam cushioning around the knee cap
Fitness skating knee pads are to be banned. They don't cover the knee enough and don't slide. Aggressive/street pads are more appropriate.
Suitable knee pads cost from 25€ to over 100€. The main brands are Protec, TGS, Triple 8, 187 Killer Pads... (non-exhaustive list).
Some falls end up elbow sliding. First price pads are around 20€ (see an example of elbow pads).
Wrist guards should have a rigid part going from the middle of the palm of your hand down to under your wrist.
It is recommended to avoid wrist guards with a rigid part that doesn't go down under the wrist (may lead to injury). Most fitness wrist guards will do. Prices start from 10€.
The helmet has to have a rigid outer shell and should tightly fit the head of the skater. A helmet of the wrong size won't protect your head and would be equivalent to skating bare headed. Your helmet should have a certified foam liner for maximum protection against high impacts. The fixing straps shouldn't be uncomfortable or cause friction or cuts.
First prices for 'good' helmets are 30€ (cheaper helmets won't provide good protection).
Tip: If mouthguards make you want to throw up, cutting them short at the molars usually solves the problem.
Derby-type skates are more appropriate. As for protective gear, don't hesitate to put a little more money in knee pads because they will be put to severe testing.
For a starter kit, you will need at least around:
- Skates: 100€
- Knee pads: 25€
- Elbow pads: 25€
- Wrist guards: 15€
- Helmet: 39€
- Mouthguard: 3€
That is to say a total of about 200€, to which you may have to add 45€ for a set of outdoor wheels.
Useful linksBy Nicolas Goury
(Coach and president of
Roller Derby Team Toulouse)
Photos : Hawaii Surf