Don’t you just hate it, when you’ve finally
elbowed your way passed the horde and ready to sprint off, then finding
yourself slip-sliding around the corners, seemingly unable to go anywhere fast.
Or you’re trying to catch up with Miss StarCap, but instead both end up sliding
off on you’re fanny’s sweetspot.
You’ve just spent last month’s rent on fancy skates and are wondering why they
don’t improve your skating skills. In fact it’s the crappy floor you’re skating
on, and the best skates in the world can’t solve that problem.
As in any sport, the surface is an important element; in Roller Derby, the
surface makes all the difference. What good does it make, having expensive
skates with high-tech wheels, when the floor sucks, has lousy grip and cracks.
Indeed, there are great, expensive wood floors out there, but great only when
their plastic coating is still new and soft. Once the coat is worn off, then
the wheel grip is a goner and you’re back to sliding and cussing.
Then there are cement floors; those stone cold, bone crushing, bare-ass concrete
slabs. Oh, to put your mind in a warm fuzzy comfort zone while skating on bare
cement, they are painted baby blue with a plastic coating - most likely put on
years ago by the owner’s grandpa. In the meantime the plastic film has worn off
in the corners – just were you need the most grip. Now, you don’t wanna fall
over on a concrete floor: you’ll shatter your wrist, elbow or knee, even with
those motorcycle-size knee pads. Better tighten those wrist pads like a boxer.
And don’t ever try to kiss that floor during a tumble, you’ll bite your own
There are several generic plastic tile floors out there, but they don’t work
well for Roller Derby. They may be ok for pregnancy gymnastics, but for quad
skates there isn’t enough wheel grip. Also, the interlocking system is fairly
loose, so after skating a few rounds the tiles shift and the floor gets all out
of whack. Besides, they painfully sound like you’re skating on empty shoe boxes.
Finally, the guys that make the floors for the inline hockey world championships
developed SkateCourt for us, which is the only floor specifically designed for
quad skating. These tiles connect very tightly, forming a monolithic slab,
which, together with small perforations in the surface kill the rolling noise.
The nicest thing about this suspended tile floor is the cushioning effect during
a fall. Besides dampening the blow to your limbs during a fall, you slide along
like on ice, reducing impact, injuries and pain.
The SkateCourt surface has a tiny relief profile, which actually reduces the
wheel friction while skating fast, but creates a serious wheel grip during
acceleration, such as during cornering.
Matter of fact the five-time World Champion speed skater, Dante Muse in Iowa,
replaced the floor in his rink with a SkateCourt.
Independence Day: Get Your Own Floor
Most leagues rent floor time at the local roller rink. That owner will give
you all kind of c&b stories on how he is losing money on Roller Derby instead
of catering for his lucrative, regular clientele, especially on weekends.
Translate: thank you for bringing people into my otherwise empty place – and
paying me for it!
All he has to do is clean his place, get the kiddy stuff out of the way and be
there on time to open up. The league dose ALL the work: the admin, the
marketing, the printing, the logistics, staffing the entrance, placing the
chairs, hanging the banners, marking the lanes with rope and tape, worrying
about the visiting teams, the refs, the rowdies, the whole damn schmier.
At the end of the day, b,s&tears soak the meager league take, while a thick wad
of crispy cash goes to the fat rat of the dilapidated rink. If you aren’t
bruised after the bout, you’ll feel trodden counting the eve’s take.
Quite a few leagues have realized that they can set up shop themselves and do
their bouts and be quite profitable. They formed some kind of company,
for-profit, non-profit, C-Corp or the easiest, a membership LLC. Now they are
renting space at non-related facilities, such as warehouses or empty shops and
factories. All they need is a portable floor, a nice space for the audience to
sit and they’re in business; a profitable, fun business.
A cozy big bar (with beer & wine license) will soon become the hangout of “the
chosen ones”. They can socialize, interact and have practice every evening and
bouts whenever they please. And should the league need to travel, simply stack
the floor up in dedicated stow boxes and haul it to the big venue. No biggie.
Some teams have it down to two hours to install and two hours to stack back up.
A lot of leagues install the floor for one day and pull it back up again after
the bout, sort of warm-up and cool down exercise.
At the end of the day, b,s&tears soak the meager league take, while a thick wad
of cash goes to the fat rat owner of the dilapidated rink.
Not all of us have a rich sugar daddy, so the thought of becoming an
entrepreneur is not everyone’s dream. But being part owner of the league / LLC
hangout may be affordable and even profitable; some girls even get some
gratuity for running the place. The LLC (or any form of company for that
matter) may qualify for a lease on the floor and equipment. If the LLC has tax
returns from the past two years, it may well qualify for a lease.
When it comes to financing, nothing is stopping you from being creative and
trying different avenues. For example, a league in Atlanta formed an LLC with
52 members. Each member signed on to make a small monthly payment over a 3
year period. If the LLC is new, you might need to find a sponsor to guarantee
payment, but 52 girls have a lot of hold. Another league in Houston had one
member buy the floor, then the league bought it off her in installments.
Many leagues actively and successfully organize fundraisers. Google 'how to
fundraise', discuss this with your league. Appoint a couple key people among
yourselves, those that have administrative talent or those who are known slave
drivers, and get yourselves organized and start making those calls and
exhibition bouts around towns. Call the management of your local shopping
center and ask if they are interested in having a bout at their mall. They
love to have attractions for shoppers, they are hurting right now. Call the
city, firemen even police. You’d be surprised how organized these guys are
and often happy to help. They take those uniforms off every day, and most
have tattoos as well...
The Gold and Silver medalist of the WFTDA 2008 Nationals, the New York Gotham
Girls and the Chicago Windy City Rollers both have their own SkateCourt. In
fact the NY Gotham girls replaced their generic tile floor with SkateCourt
after they experienced the difference in speed during the Eastern Regional in
Ohio in 2007.
Transporting your floor
The SkateCourt comes in slabs of 4x4 tiles, so that installation is quick and
manageable. Those slabs can be stacked in optional wooden boxes, or crates,
about 6 ft tall with a door. Each stow box holds 150 slabs, so that you can
easily see and count if there are slabs missing. The bottom is design to be
handled with a pallet jack. Some teams actually put wheels on the crates and
simply push them into the storage area.
On those excursions to a big arena across town, you can rent a truck with a
lift gate and a pallet jack. One by one, the crates are rolled onto the rear
gate and lifted up onto the truck bed. Renting the truck is only about $30 a
day, but they make you bleed with the $0.45 per mile, so be mindful when
shopping around for a rental truck. Again, check out if the dude behind the
counter falls for your charm and negotiate a sponsorship deal, with fancy
banner, tickets et al.
How to clean/take care of your floor
A Derby floor is quite simple to maintain. Most of the time you just use a
damp mop with warm water and vinegar, like your wood floors at home; except
here you can skate behind the mop. Sweat, tears and ketchup should be wiped
off as soon as possible, because it’s slippery when wet, and gets sticky. If
it's a permanent installation with daily use, you may use a scrubbing machine
once a month. Puleeze make sure nobody spits chewing gum on the floor. It's
utterly disgusting having to hand-scrape flat, rolled-down gum off the floor.
From time to time there are used floors available on the market. Most of the
times there is a solid reason that someone pulled them up: the tiles are no
longer flat, they start to “cup” at the corners. These tiles are useless for
roller derby, as the tiles wobble when skating on them. So be careful when
buying a used floor and get a guarantee from the seller that the tiles are
Some used floors have slash marks from inline hockey sticks. These marks may
be ugly, but usually do not diminish the floor, as long as the tiles are flat
and mechanically sound. Check out the various manufacturers for used floors,
they can be anywhere between 25% to 50% cheaper than new.
Go for it and enjoy!
So there you have it! Roller Derby is here to stay and planning your league's
growth for the long-term includes running your own place and having your own
portable floor. This will make you independent from those traditional
facilities catering primarily to families. This will give you access to 24/7
floor time, progressing your league’s skills.
Your own facility, however rudimental at first, will invite other travel teams
to visit; again a great opportunity to compare your league’s skills and
socialize with similar minds.
A fast bout is exciting for the skaters and thrilling for the audience. And
SkateCourt is the fastest skating surface in the world, with specific, patented
design elements to speed up the game of Roller Derby.
Click on our photo gallery and visit a rink nearby to share the fun of modern skating.