For the second time in two years, roller derby fans in Del Norte County will be treated to a men's roller derby bout at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds.
The Deep Valley Belligerents of Ukiah and the Bridgetown Menace of Portland, Ore., will take to the flat track following the Tsunami Sirens' bout against the Jefferson State Maidens of Mayhem of Yreka. The action begins at 6 p.m. today in the fairgrounds' main building.
The Belligerents/Menace bout is a rematch of a Feb. 11, 2012, bout held at The Big O Tournament in Eugene, Ore., an annual confluence of men's and women's roller derby squads. Deep Valley defeated Bridgetown, 152-98.
Belligerents player Joe "Sloppy Joe" Arispe is the assistant coach of the Crescent City-based Sirens, and Siren Adrianna "Full Metal Jackie" Stefko is one of two coaches of the Belligerents. Cayce "Red Eye Jedi" Harris, who emcees the Sirens' bouts, is also a member of Deep Valley.
The men tend to bring a different type of athleticism to the tactical game play of roller derby, Stefko said.
"They're strong, they're fast, they hit hard," she said. "A lot of times, the hits are mistaken for penalties (by the referees) because the hits are ugly."
Stefko said that women's roller derby packs - when players are bunched together, creating walls or openings for jammers - take an average of 12 seconds to circle the flat track. (Women's Flat Track Derby Association rules stipulate that acceptable tracks must have an inner circumference of 148 feet, 6 inches.) Men's derby is played at a faster pace, and Stefko said that, in practice, Deep Valley's packs take as little as 7 seconds to complete a lap.
"A lot of these guys are running what a fast women's skater can run," Stefko said.
Both sides feature skaters with varying backgrounds. A couple of Deep Valley's players grew up playing hockey, honing their balance on skates and checking abilities. Some members of the Bridgetown Menace are avid soccer players who translate their footwork to the flat track.
Men have occasionally participated in the Sirens' boot camps, open to those interested in learning to skate or play roller derby, over the past couple of seasons. Generating interest in a North Coast Roller Derby men's team, under the Sirens' parent organization, lies somewhere between a long-term goal and a pipe dream.
Tonight, the dream will be realized, for one night anyway, in Del Norte County.
"Everything's larger, faster, bigger, harder," Stefko said. "You do expect a man to go flying into the crowd, so watch your lap."
Reach Robert Husseman at firstname.lastname@example.org.