Riptide Rolls with the Punches

Kat+Torreano

Kat Torreano

Jake Bekemeyer

You might suspect a roller derby to be filled with anger or aggression, as players vying for position slam into each other on the track, but the overall feeling of the bout between the Rolling Riptide and the Keweenaw Roller Girls was warmth, family and good-natured competition. The Dead River Roller Derby “Bout & Brews” race began at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8 at Lakeview Arena. The Rolling Riptide team hoped to rack up points to get better seeding for the statewide event coming up in October, while the Keweenaw Roller Girls itched to put up a good fight and make the bout competitive.

Kat Torreano

But the Keweenaw Roller Girls’ dreams were quickly dashed as the Rolling Riptide jumped to an early lead and never let up, the night ending on a 261-85 final score.

“We’re all good friends,” said Alana Carrott, vice president of Dead River Derby and a skater for the Rolling Riptide, known as Phee Nix to her teammates and fans. Despite the command Rolling Riptide took early, there was never a moment those friendly words didn’t ring true.

It was amazing to see the skaters from both teams joking around and chatting with each other’s families before the match, then throwing shoulders into collarbones on the rink, and then topping off the end of the night with a drink together. Phee Nix, who played deftly, was chatting like family with the girls she was skating circles around. That really puts into perspective what this Dead River Roller Derby league is about.

“[Roller derby] is for people of any shape, size or skill level,” Phee Nix explained, and leaving your ego at the door is required. Explaining the history of the fun names, Natalie Jackson, aka Chompers said, “We don’t want to be attached to our personas,” referring to what they do as their day job outside of the league.

The skaters said that this was a place for everyone, regardless of what they have going on in life. Players come from all over the employment spectrum— some make big bucks in the outside world, some not so much, but it doesn’t matter— everyone treats everyone the same.

Most fans come for the same reason. There was a craft beer stand at the stadium drawing in people who usually don’t show up, but the core fans come for the same reason the skaters do: they like the community, talking to people they normally wouldn’t and making new friends.

But Dead River Derby is generous to those outside their immediate family of fans too, raising money for charity. Half the money they earned from the tickets Friday was donated to Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly and St. Vincent de Paul of Marquette Food Pantry.

The bout ended with the crowd forming a circle around the rink and both teams skating around high-fiving anyone who wanted to join. The biggest cheers when the Rolling Riptide did their lap came from Keweenaw’s bench, and the same thing happened when Keweenaw skated their lap.

“We’re very close-knit,” Phee Nix concluded.

If you want to participate in next season’s events as a skater, referee or volunteer, visit Dead River Derby’s Facebook page and reach out. You won’t be turned away.