One of the first, and most daunting, decisions that people need to make when they join a derby league is their gear. Hopefully this guide is helpful to somebody out there!
What do I need to buy?
WARD skaters wear:
- Mouth guard
- Knee pads
- Elbow pads
- Wrist guards
Most skaters start off with some kind of polyurethane (vegan leather) boot and a nylon plate. These are on the cheaper end of the scale and are very comfortable. Depending on a number of factors, these skates might last you anywhere from six months to a couple of years. Mine lasted for about a year, and I was skating a few times per week.
A good fit is very important, so I’d recommend trying on your first skates before buying (rather than buying them online). If you can, get a proper fitting at a skate shop.
Get a good-quality helmet that fits properly (i.e. snug but not headache-inducingly tight). You want to protect your brain, don’t you? Look for brands such as S1, Triple 8, Nutcase, TSG, Pro-Tec and Bauer.
Dentist-made mouthguards will cost an arm and a leg, but they give your teeth amazing impact protection. Most skate shops sell decent “boil and bite” mouthguards too- these are often less bulky than the dentist-made ones, and they can also be easier to talk and drink with.
Kneepads, Elbow Pads and Wrist Guards
Buy the best kneepads you can afford. You don’t notice how important your knees are until you hurt them. Expensive derby kneepads can be bulky, though- at first, I thought they were RIDICULOUS and had no idea how I’d skate in them. But you’ll get used to them very quickly, and the bulkier kneepads force you to bend your knees more- perfect for derby.
Good elbow pads tend to be less expensive than good kneepads. I’d recommend the kind with velcro straps at the back (so they open right out), not ones that just slip on. I’ve learned the hard way that the ones that don’t open up at the back are IMPOSSIBLE to de-stink, but then maybe you’re not as stinky as me.
Cheaper wrist guards will often have a big “bump” where the palm of your hand is. These are fine for fresh meat. I’ve heard that they can hurt your teammates in proper game play, though- so wrist guards with a flatter palm area are a wise investment if you’re thinking longer-term.
Good knee pad, elbow pad and wrist guard brands include: Triple 8, S1, Pro-Tec, 187, Deadbolt, Atom, TSG and Smith Scabs.
Stopping the Stink: Protective Gear
You’ll find heaps of guides on this all over the internet. Here’s what works for me.
At minimum: take your protective gear out of your bag after every practice. If you have a tiny washing line, hang your gear up and put it somewhere airy. (A bit of sun can help, too- but it can eventually damage elastic.) You can spray it all with an alcohol/disinfectant spray if you like. Brush your mouth guard with toothpaste
Once this stops working: hand-wash or machine-wash your gear (check what the manufacturer recommends). If you’re machine-washing, separate it into separate wash bags so it doesn’t all stick together. If your mouth guard looks gross, soak it overnight in a mixture of 50% water, 50% white vinegar, then rinse it well.
Stopping the Stink: Skates
Those really well-padded freshie skates get super stinky! I used to spray them with an alcohol spray and air them out, but this often wasn’t enough to stop the stink. A number of my friends swear by the moisture absorbers sold by skate shops. Otherwise, fill a sock with kitty litter and put it in your skates.
Less-padded boots will generally get less stinky- just make sure you’re airing them out after every practice.
Interested in skating with WARD? Hit us up on the WA Roller Derby Facebook page, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a new skater intake every 12 weeks; no experience needed!