It didn’t take long for the sport of roller derby to take over the hearts of husband-and-wife duo Joe “Sloppy Joe” Arispe and Danielle “Ragin’ Reg” Arispe.
Professionally, Joe is a commercial fisherman and Danielle is a mortgage support specialist at Rogue Federal Credit Union, but when they are not at work they are frequently roller skating somewhere.
The Arispes, who live in Brookings, have been participating in roller derby for about three years now, and both of them travel around the country to compete.
Danielle was the first to try the derby, joining up with the Tsunami Sirens in fall 2010.
“I used to speed skate as a kid,” Danielle said. “Joe met one of the girl’s husbands and told him, ‘My wife was a speed skater and my father-in-law used to do roller derby.’ The next thing I know, I have a girl named Stormy Seize (Skylar Bieraugel) calling me and trying to get me to come down here. I did and the rest is history.”
Roller derby was a natural fit for Danielle. Her first foray into the world of the Sirens, however, ended in disaster.
“At my first practice ever, I could skate so well that they threw me into a scrimmage and I separated a rib,” Danielle said. “So from my first practice, I had to take six to eight weeks off because I couldn’t even sit up. After one practice I was already hooked, though, so I ordered my custom skates.”
“I don’t remember a time when I didn’t roller skate,” she said. “I’m pretty sure that as soon as I could walk, my dad taught me how to roller skate.
“I started competing at about 6 or 7 years old, and I did that until I was in my late teens. It was a huge part of my life, then it was gone for a long time. It is great just to have skating back in my life. I didn’t think it was ever going to come back around again.”
Three years ago, Joe didn’t have quite the background in roller skating that his wife had.
“I did martial arts for about seven years, but besides that I never really got into any sports seriously,” Joe said. “Derby has definitely got me hooked, though. I don’t think I have put as much time into anything in my life as roller derby.”
Joe initially got involved on the coaching side of roller derby, but he wasn’t content to sit on the sidelines for long.
“Her father (Jack Gollaher) is the Tsunami Sirens coach, ‘Coach Old Xchool,’” Joe said. “I started filming their practices so he could break them down on film. I just got really into it and decided that I needed to start skating. I just got sucked in.”
Due to a smaller number of men’s roller derby teams nationwide, Joe started competing with the Deep Valley Belligerents out of Ukiah.
He says he tries to get down to Ukiah for practices once a month and practices with the Sirens three times a week.
“It is so much fun,” Joe said. “I can come skate with the girls and learn so much. Then I can apply it to the men’s game. It goes both ways, too. She can come down and skate with my team and learn more of the brute force, how to go against big, strong guys, and take that back to the women’s game.”
“The guys’ game is very shoulder-based,” Danielle added. “The guys that play with girls learn to use their hips and butts more, because that is what we do. So it is beneficial to their game. Girls that play with guys, they use their shoulders so much that you learn to maneuver around that. You have to use speed, agility and footwork to get around their big bodies.”
Danielle and Joe even team up a few times a year in co-ed roller derbies with a group galled the 707 Coalition out of Mendocino.
In addition to skating with the Sirens, Danielle, who is from the Bay Area originally, started skating with the Port City Roller Girls out of Stockton.
“Two years ago, I was recruited by Port City by some girls that I used to skate with as a kid,” Danielle said.
Port City competes in the USA Roller Sports league, which plays by a little bit different rules than the Tsunami Sirens. Danielle says the USARS derby is faster-paced.
Danielle just returned from Tulsa, Okla., where she competed in USARS Nationals with Port City Oct. 25–27. The previous week, Joe was in Sioux City, Iowa, competing in the Men’s Roller Derby Association Championships Oct. 19–20.
It was Danielle’s second trip to nationals with Port City, and another chance for her to win some of the hardware that alluded her in her youth.
“Personally, I am trying to get that medal,” Danielle said. “I never got it in speed skating, so I feel like I have a second chance.”
The Port City Roller Girls ended up in fifth place overall, two spots short of a medal, in a disappointing tournament for the team.
“We were first in our region and, there is no other way to say it, we really blew our first game,” Danielle said. “We spent a lot of the first half in the penalty box and got behind.
“We came back in the second half and it came down to the last jam, but we lost by five points. Had we won that game, we probably would have smooth-sailed to the championship match, but instead we had to go down to the losers bracket and win our way out.”
It was Joe’s first trip to the MRDA Championships. Although he has been a member of the Deep Valley Belligerents for three years, the team was only just accepted into MRDA in 2012. In its first full year in the league, it earned a No. 8 national ranking and grabbed a spot in the championships.
“We got out butts kicked,” Joe said of his team’s experience in at the Championships. “We went in as the eight seed, the bottom seed in the tournament. So we had to play the No. 1 seed right away. They were a really powerful team and they kind of mopped the floor with us. But it was a good experience for our team. We definitely took a lot away from that game.”
The Deep Valley Belligerents’ first-round opponent, Your Mom Men’s Derby, out of Des Moines, Iowa, went on to win the championship bout by 119 points.
In the consolation bracket, DVB played Bridgetown Menace, a team out of Portland that Ukiah has played twice already this year. The Belligerents lost that bout as well, finishing eighth overall.
“We came away with an idea of what we need to do to be able to beat teams like the ones we faced there,” Joe said.
Both tournaments signaled the end of the roller derby season for their respective leagues and the Arispes are entering the offseason. They will not be going far from the rink though. Danielle and Joe have already begun training for next season with hopes that, in a year, they will finally have some medals to show.