Male fans' bare chests emblazoned with a team's colors and a player's number aren't unusual to see at a football game, but at the Tsunami Sirens' last bout of the season Saturday, Natasha Schultz and Shelly Babich took it one step further.
The daughter and sister of Heather "Nursin' A Grudge" Larson painted her number on their pregnant bellies along with "my grandma" and "my aunt" in aqua-blue and black. During halftime, Larson dragged Schultz and Babich out onto the track to celebrate.
"We're four fans," said Babich, who has also skated roller derby. "(My sister's) going to be a grandma for the first time. She needs a break."
Larson said her daughter's baby is due on Oct. 27 and her sister's will come around Dec. 3. Both will be girls.
"They'll be more like twins than aunt and niece," she said. "They'll be raised up together."
Larson and her fellow Tsunami Sirens engaged in a fierce battle with Flood Water Roller Derby, of Rocklin, Calif., with the jammers attempting to break through the opposite team's blockers to earn points. The Sirens inundated Flood Water with a final score of 278-96. A portion of the ticket proceeds was donated to the Del Norte High School dance team.
Saturday's bout concludes a season with just two losses out of 10 bouts. In May, the Sirens lost to Red Bluff. They also lost to Humboldt Roller Derby in a bout that went into overtime.
At many of their bouts, the Sirens and their opponents were pretty evenly matched, said Bridgit "Killa B" Lacey.
In those cases, "it's more exciting." she said.
The Sirens won Saturday by bringing out the finesse in their game, said coach Jack "Old Xchool" Gollaher. Instead of relying on brute force to elbow their way through the competition, Gollaher said his players were able to use head fakes and other subtle tricks to score.
Gollaher, who has experience with roller derby dating back to the 1960s, said the Sirens' season record of eight wins and two losses shows that his skaters are getting better.
"I've got a set of girls, about six, that effectively worked themselves into the position as A skaters," he said, adding that in larger communities roller derby leagues have multiple teams, with A skaters being the more elite players. "Those are big steps, making the transition to an A skater. It's almost unfair, but in a small community like this one I have to put everybody in one team."
Even though the 2013 season has ended, practice will continue, Gollaher said. Today, everybody, newbies and A skaters alike, will start boot camp going over the basics. If a newcomer doesn't know how to skate, Gollaher said he'll teach her. But if she doesn't know anything at all about skating, derby can be a tough sport to break into, he said.
"It's the same for a beginner skater and the most advanced skater," Gollaher said. "I start them from square-one on how to skate, then I build on those skills. New skaters learn very quickly, this is how it should be done."
Crescent City residents Bonnie Strickhouser and Debbie Dean have attended every home bout this season except one in July that fell on the same night as Relay For Life. Strickhouser said she and Dean were introduced to roller derby through Adrianna "Full Metal Jackie" Stefko, who does their hair.
"We're still learning the rules, but we come just for the excitement of watching girls you see every day," Strickhouser said.
Dean added that she has seen roller derby bouts in San Diego and Texas.
"This is up close and personal," she said. "I'm a hockey fan. This is great, there's no glass."
Today's boot camp is open to women 18 and older and men 18 and older who want to volunteer to help the team. Rental gear is available for $20 on a first-come, first-served basis and participants are asked to bring their own mouth guards. Athletic apparel is recommended.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.