Let’s Learn about Roller Derby in Washington State with Nicole Klauss!
Our first full episode featuring Nicole Klauss. Join us as we discuss Washington State Roller Derby. Learn about the sport and find out where you can watch a match.
We also chat about Nicole's favorite place to eat and grab a drink in Ellensburg.
Scott Cowan : Our guest today is Nicole Klaus Nicole is the content and events marketing supervisor for CW hype at Central Washington University. And she is a roller derby enthusiasts, which is what we're going to talk to her about today. Additionally, Nicole is one of the editors here at explore Washington State. So she is one of the people that helps us put our content together and displays it so it looks nice, and she's also contributed several articles to the platform. Welcome, Nicole.
Nicole Klauss : Thanks, Scott. I'm excited to be here.
Scott Cowan : So You'd have chatted offline a little bit about roller derby. And I'm just going to kind of turn it over to you and say, tell our audience what they need to know about roller derby. And where they can see it in Washington State, and all those cool things that make it something that you're an enthusiast about.
Nicole Klauss : Yes. So roller derby is a full contact sport. And it is played by two teams of 15 skaters during a two minute jam, which is what we call the time periods on the track. Five skaters from each team are on the track during that jam, and the games are made up of 230 minute house. So that's kind of what the length like so for a fan to go plan for probably like an hour a little bit more with the fun and the crowd and the halftime show and all of that. And then just as far as where to go at pretty much all of the major cities in Washington have teams which is really cool. Seattle has Rock City. Roller Derby. There's teams in Bellingham Tacoma, Spokane, ellensburg, Everett, Yakima, Walla Walla, tri cities, and there's a lot more so I was trying to list them all out. And I have counted more than 20 teams in Washington state, which is really, really exciting for the sport.
Scott Cowan : So you say that there's, there's, there's 15 people on a team, and five of them are active at any given time.
Nicole Klauss : That's correct. There's five skaters from each team on the track at any time, and kind of how that's broken down is, there's one jammer on the track at a time and they are the skater who is wearing a star on their helmet and they're the ones that score all of the points. So basically, there's no ball and roller derby like a lot of other sports, but you score points when the jammer passes opposing players and we call the non jammers blockers and so their goal is to try to prevent The other teams have put the other teams jammer from passing them by staying in front of that jammer hitting them down hitting them out of bounds kind of doing anything they can do that's legal in the sport to keep them from scoring points.
Scott Cowan : So you said it was full contact? Yes. What you just had legal so there's, there's there's guidelines. So what are those guidelines what's what is allowed and what's not
Nicole Klauss : sure. It's not unfortunately, like it was back in the day where you see elbows all the time. And so we do get asked that quite a bit. But they do have set rules to try and keep us safer. As you know, we've learned about concussions and injury prevention and all that. So, legal hitting zones, you can hit with the side from the side of your shoulder, down to your lower thigh. So you can use all that as like area to hit someone else with so you can't like use your forearms to or your hands to shove someone you can't kick them. So like that. The knee kicking or like using your like it's not okay. So those are kind of like the ways you can hit someone. So you can like come up and do like a hip check, you can come up and do a full side block into them. Or you can kind of just come up and catch them and sit in front of them. As far as legal where it's not just what you can hit with, but it's also where you can hit other people. So you can't hit above the neck because we want to prevent, you know, concussions and so no head hits, that's a penalty, you can hit them in there, you can hit them in the chest, or all the way down to like above the knee, and then you can hit on their sides, you cannot come and run at them fully like squaring to the back. That's also something that's super dangerous. So that's called the back block. And so they don't let you do that. So there are some some rules that you have to follow but there's a lot of way to get to get contact without without breaking them.
Scott Cowan : So this is probably I think I know the answer. But I'm going to ask the question, so I can't like, skate up behind you and use my knee. Correct? I can't, I can't like. So basically, my skates probably shouldn't leave the ground. Would that be a safe assumption?
Nicole Klauss : Yeah, I mean, if you're your jammer, and you're trying to jump the line and try and jump around people, that's totally fine. But yeah, I probably don't pick up your skate to kick someone and also throw you off balance.
Scott Cowan : If I'm a if I'm a blocker, ultimately, yeah. Okay. So then, if if somebody is caught with, you know, I throw an illegal illegal block on somebody. What happens then?
Nicole Klauss : Yeah, so they actually have to leave the track and go sit in the penalty box for 30 seconds, and their penalty doesn't start until their butt is in the seat. And so potentially by the time you calculate kind of getting off the track, you could be looking at 40 seconds almost that your team is down a person.
Scott Cowan : Okay, so So instead of having five So if I if I did an illegal block, I'm whistled off. I have to go sit down. Yeah, during that time that time that before I once I've been whistle before when I leave the track but before I hit the I hit the penalty box game still in play.
Nicole Klauss : Oh yeah game is still in play. So you want to get there as fast as you can and then as soon as your whistle to leave the box get back out as fast as you can to rejoin your team.
Scott Cowan : Okay. Interesting. That's that's I could see from a strategic standpoint that's that's kind of an interesting thing. So what makes so there's there's basically there's two players in Derby matching the sensors the jammer, then there's the blockers. What makes a good jammer?
Nicole Klauss : Well, I've actually seen a variety of jammers, different body text, different heights, I would say there's benefits to both, um, a lot of times you'll see smaller jammers be really fast and really quick and able to do fake outs and jokes and things like that and be successful with jumping in and all that. And then you might see like a larger jammer come in and just really be able to find those, like cracks between the players like where they can just shove their way through and just kind of plow through and get get through that way.
Scott Cowan : Okay, so then the same question for blockers, what makes a what makes a good blocker? versus, you know, yeah, an inadequate blocker?
Nicole Klauss : I think, I think any I mean, any we have blockers of all shapes and sizes. I think what really helps with blockers is communication. They have to be a good calm communicator, you're talking to each other while you're out there, you're touching each other. You're shoving your players to a spot to help them get there to block the jammer if they can't get there themselves. So just really good communicator has some natural agility and is able to, to hustle, I would say as well.
Scott Cowan : Okay. So, you mentioned a halftime show, but you said there's three sessions, so Sorry, to set to 30 minute halves to 30 minute house. Okay, so and we're on for two minutes at a time. So there's 15 of these sessions each half
Nicole Klauss : a no. So there's 230 minutes, sorry, 230 minute halves, and then you have that 30 minutes is broken up into jams. And jellies can be up to two minutes, but they're not always two minutes. Sometimes you get more jams than you know, if you just divided 30 by two, you get 15. But sometimes you get more sometimes, you know, if you get less if there's like, delay, like game delays due to like official reviews or things like that, but generally, more than 15.
Scott Cowan : So does the clock so let's just say the mat started at eight o'clock. And so does the clock run from eight to 830 without stopping, or does it stop each time a jam is completed.
Nicole Klauss : So there are pauses in the clock. But yeah, I would say you probably would want to estimate May like an extra half hour just because like during the halftime they may be 10 to 15 minute half times depending if there's like a big show or just a lot of teams will do like maybe a warm up or like a half intro to Derby one on one before so I usually tell people to budget for about an hour and a half for like attending about.
Scott Cowan : Okay. So halftime mentioned that and you said halftime show? Yes. What on earth?
Nicole Klauss : What on earth halftime? Shoot. Well, it could be. It could be Jr. Roller Derby team coming to show off their skills. They are super cute. I've seen a lot of halftime shows where you get little girls out there like six years old. They're dancing on their skates having a good time. I've seen halftime shows that involve community groups like local dance troupes singing groups, it's kind of all over the across the board. So um, depends on You know which what the team wants to bring in to entertain the crowd. Sometimes there's games for the crowd to participate in costume contests. I've seen kind of all different things.
Scott Cowan : Okay, cool. You mentioned junior team. So what what is the age range of roller derby? And Junior? And then what's, what's the, I don't wanna say above, but what? Yeah, how is Derby leagues? How are they broken up? Describe that to our listeners.
Nicole Klauss : Sure. So there's the women's flat track Derby Association, which is like the overarching kind of governing body for women's flat track roller derby internationally, and there's more than 450 leads on six continents as a part of that group. And so that's for women, ages 18 and up. So, you know, you might have some 18 year olds fresh coming right in, maybe they've skated as kids, maybe they haven't, but then we have upwards of like, 4050 year old sometimes playing so just depends on the league and who you Have. The cool thing about roller derby is anyone can be an athlete. And then on the other side of the spectrum, there's a junior roller derby association that is for kids under 18. So and then there's also a men's Derby as well.
Scott Cowan : And I guess with the men's is their junior in regular league as well to be.
Nicole Klauss : I think sometimes at the junior level, they have co Ed teams, but like the men's roller derby is just for ages 18 enough as well, but
Scott Cowan : yeah. All right. So you said flat track makes me think that was their tracks with banks before? I mean, for some reason. Yeah, for some reason in my memory. I remember roller derby on TV A long time ago, we won't go back to say how long that it seemed like it was. I want to say I remember it being kind of a bank track so it was really flying around, but they were certainly kicking and hitting and it was Like rustling?
Nicole Klauss : Yes, you're not imagining that. That used to be. That's kind of a, the history of the sport. So rotary itself kind of started after a bank track roller skating marathons like back in the 1930s. And then it kind of evolved to more of a competitive sport and got real big in the 70s. That's probably you probably what you're thinking of with, like the big hits and the elbows and kind of all that, and then certainly work on the 30s Yeah, that's a nice, um, yeah. And then it had its modern revival in the early 2000s in Austin, Texas as an all female woman organized amateur sport. And so it's definitely evolved. The rules have changed to focus more on safety and and how do you make it accessible. Bank tracks are expensive to store and purchase and set up. So that's why it's kind of evolved to that flat track when it had the revival, I think because you just really need a big open space. It could be a warehouse. It could be a gym. Could be, you know, outside of you for practices and stuff. You're not worried about rain
Scott Cowan : does it? So, from a surface Okay, so how big is the track? Are they are the standard size? Or can they be, you know, like, like a football fields 100 yards but a baseball field is different dimensions almost each each stadium. Where's Roger? We fall into that?
Nicole Klauss : Yeah, so the track itself ranges in width as you go around it from 13 going into the curves to 15 feet coming out of the curve, and kind of as the length like what the rule is, is it needs to be 108 feet long with an extra 10 feet on each side for the outer officiating for like the referees to skater on the outside. And then as far as the width, it's 75 feet with the 10 foot lane for the refs.
Scott Cowan : Okay, and how many, okay, so how many referees are they're in a roller derby match, so
Nicole Klauss : the ideal is seven. So there's a couple different positions So each one seven Yeah. And, and they're all on skates too. And then we have non skating officials who do more of like the tracking of the statistics and write down penalties like the rest will tell them and then they'll write the penalty down. So, a lot of volunteers to make this sport happen.
Scott Cowan : I would have never, I would have never guessed seven referees. That's, that's well, okay. So but Okay, so the track itself, it can be it could it could be concrete, it could be wood, I mean, is there
Nicole Klauss : I've skated on a lot of different surfaces. So I've been in some better like the typical old skate ranks that fit the dimensions, they're wood floors, polished concrete, and it just has to be a smooth surface. So obviously, if there's a lot of cracks or bumps in it, they probably wouldn't be able to make that a usable surface. But you see a lot of like gym floors, polished concrete, and some really sticky ones like the one in ellensburg is like Kind of a dummy material. It's very hard to skate on, like skater mud. But yeah, so the smoother the better usually.
Scott Cowan : Okay, so you've already just thrown ellensburg under the bus which is completely fine because you know, it's good. No, I'm just kidding. of the tracks in Washington where do you Where do you like to skate?
Nicole Klauss : That's a great question. Um I I've always had a great thoughts when I go to play Pullman's team they have like a nicer floor a wood floor and I have been to Leavenworth quite a bit and traveled there for their tournament with a very improved fest that they host every year I'm by Apple city roller derby obviously because they're near Wenatchee
Scott Cowan : we're we're okay, so since I'm based in Wenatchee, and I don't know where that's where we're in Wenatchee is it?
Nicole Klauss : So the facilities actually in Leavenworth where I've been where I've been for the
Scott Cowan : Okay, is it the the chalet the chalet building there, but kind of by the McDonald's?
Nicole Klauss : Yes, it's that big kind of building and it has more of a polished concrete, but for some reason I always seem to like skating on that one. So, okay, yeah. And I like going to Leavenworth every year for that tournament because I also get to visit like, my favorite local businesses like icicle brewing.
Scott Cowan : Yeah, no more so fun fun town and when. So when is the the roller derby season here in Washington State?
Nicole Klauss : Yeah, so it varies kind of team by team. But generally teams will start up in January, and then kind of get their competitive season going through the summer. And then some people take breaks over the summer. And then the competitive season actually continues through November for those teams that are playing for like higher level roller derby for rankings and things like that. But um, and then generally November December is kind of like, either holiday themed roller derby events or just kind of like a break since everyone's doing their own holiday activities.
Scott Cowan : So we have local teams throughout the state. And the leagues that they participate in, are they exclusively teams in Washington? Or are is it Northwest teams? And then because you mentioned teams are competing for tournaments. So how would you? How would you describe that process for our audience?
Nicole Klauss : Sure. So I'm kind of at the local level, say you have a roller derby team and they're, they're likely to play teams in their state and region. tournaments. Usually they can decide if they want to enter and submit an application. And if they're kind of a compatible skill level with other teams submitting, usually they'll get in generally, a lot of the times those terms They want to make it fair. So they'll try to pick teams that are, you know, close and match or, or maybe not too far of a skill level disparity. And so that's kind of how the local teams participate. And they, I mean, when I was on a smaller team, we traveled, you know, to different states to so it's just kind of up to them. So then once you get to like teams that are playing in competitive play through the flat track Derby Association, basically, their season, like I said, starts in January, and then they, they enter tournaments and have to play like, sanctioned games, which are usually higher level, um, and then try to advance to like, playoffs and that type of thing.
Scott Cowan : Okay, all right. And then so, where for you personally, where's the where's the farthest you've traveled, traveled to to participate in a roller derby match or tournament?
Nicole Klauss : I have traveled to Canada before. So Prince George is like, I just want to say it was like a 12 hour drive from where I was starting out. And it was really fun. We, I think all the teams there at the time we went were from actually Canada, which was cool. But for a little small town team to go up there and just have fun. I we didn't do so great. But we learned a lot. And had fun. So that's Yeah.
Scott Cowan : Cool. Cool. So now you're playing. You're playing with the Seattle team. Yes. And you had mentioned before this got started. I think when we talked that that team is nationally ranked.
Nicole Klauss : Yes. So Rock City roller derby is actually internationally ranked. They're ranked number 18 in the world right now.
Scott Cowan : Very cool. That's, that's, that's cool. And so at the time of this recording, a roller derby is not happening because of the COVID-19 pandemics. So what it's hard to predict, I guess what the future is going to be For roller derby, but what do you What's your opinion? What do you think? will it take for roller derby to get back? You know, becoming a thing again?
Nicole Klauss : Yeah, well are actually like I mentioned the governing body, the wF TDA actually released their own standards to like return to play. So it is kind of a ways out, but I think there's some baseline things that'll need to happen and it depends where you live, I think that they'll probably start once they're, you know, region and state segments or areas, it's okay for them to start doing those kinds of activities. They'll probably start with just skating skills, no contact kind of work their way up, get everyone's feet back under them. Some people are still skating on their own, but some people are just trying to get through this time. Sure, so it could be a while, um, but I think some teams will, you know, get back to practices sooner than others.
Scott Cowan : So if somebody Were interested in going to see a roller derby match or yeah let's just start with that so they want to they want to go see what roller derby was about and go actually see it in person in in our area what would be your recommendation? Where Where's a great place for you know, this might be different than a track in the sense of are there venues that are really good for the for people to watch the sport?
Nicole Klauss : I think you could look up where you just go to Google and type in your city where you are and say roller derby in you know Walla Walla and find find out where they play and find their website and contact them and see when their next event is but also just like the roller rinks, a lot of leagues will utilize roller rinks and they have plenty of events up at the roller skate earrings if you're lucky enough to have one in your community.
Scott Cowan : Okay. And then for somebody who might be interested in in Giving roller derby a try. Same sort of advice, you know, check roller derby, your town and just show up. And what does it take to get started in roller derby?
Nicole Klauss : Yeah, I definitely recommend looking up to see if there is a league in your town. And then just right now is a really, it's a weird time to join because you're not going to be practicing with other people. But it's also a really a great time if you have the ability to get on roller skates and start learning those really basic skills. So when it does come back, you already have those under your belt and you've been practicing. So definitely like reaching out to the local team. They could tell you what kind of equipment you need, if you need advice on that, or maybe have like some trial equipment you could potentially borrow. And yeah, I think anyone can give it a try. I had never skated in my wife before I moved to ellensburg. And I just wanted to meet people. So I joined
Scott Cowan : really, you've never skated before and and you decided to get into contact sport, you've never even done the basics. That's, that's cool. So you mentioned though the basic skills, what are the sides being able to roller skate? What are the basic skills that one needs to be involved here?
Nicole Klauss : Yeah, well, I mean, roller skating is obviously one of them. But there's more to it than just moving forward and backwards. You want to know how how to stop safely. Because you could be having to stop on a dime to like, avoid running into someone who's on the ground or jumping over people. So you learn to jump in case you have to jump over someone who's, who's fallen, you learn how to fall properly, learning how to look up while you're skating and avoid obstacles. These are all things that people can practice on their own that are definitely skills utilized in the sport.
Scott Cowan : Okay, and you mentioned equipment, borrowing equipment, things like that. Besides a pair of skates and a helmet, what what is considered the best basic tools of a roller derby participant
Nicole Klauss : yes, those two are very important. We do require mouth guards. So that also helps with preventing concussion and just keeping your teeth nice. Okay, she fall, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards are the other ones that are required. And then there's like additional ones like, you could wear potted shorts if you were interested in that, but that's totally optional. Not a bad thought, though, if you're new. Right, right. I would absolutely that would be Can I go out there and a big influence?
Scott Cowan : Not particularly coordinated. So that's all I mean, that's that's kind of very fascinating to me that you picked up the sport because you moved to ellensburg and you want to meet people?
Nicole Klauss : Yes, I am. At the time I was writing for the local newspaper and I happen to be interviewing the coach for the team. I didn't know his or her day job. As a She works at a university doing fashion, writing the fashion program there. And she was getting her makeup done kind of really fun way. And I said, What is that for? And she's like, Oh, I'm going to roller derby photoshoot after this and kind of just started talking and went from there. And I just wanted to meet people in the community. And I would say it has, it has introduced me to so many people like anywhere you go if you're trying to find locals to connect with like, if you're visiting other states, just reach out like I can just reach out to the team and it's like a family kind of built in. So when I went to Hawaii, I took my skates and skated with their team, which was really fun.
Scott Cowan : So actually, he just said something that kind of reminds me. I remember seeing a picture of would it be a junior team and the kids were they had their faces painted like with just crazy makeup on I mean, ghoulish looking stuff and it was it was pretty fun. Is that is that part of the Regular league as well do people kind of go and do this characters, if you will?
Nicole Klauss : Yeah, it kind of depends on the skater. And you'll find some skaters who like match their name up and have a whole theme and maybe it's like a superhero theme or related to like, Harry Potter, and they'll like paint their face and, you know, kind of were more fun socks. And then on the other end of the spectrum, you have people who just kind of want to do their best and not worry about all like the extra kind of things and more focus on the sport, but I think for the fans that um, the makeup, the costumes, all that super fun for the fans, and if you can find like a Halloween one to go to, those are the best ones for seeing all those kinds of outfits.
Scott Cowan : That's, that's pretty cool. That's, that's actually I bet that would be a lot of a lot of fun to see. Okay, so I'd be remiss if we didn't talk about Washington State a little bit. Yes, this is the boring Washington State podcast and you're basically ellensburg so you're kind of in the center of the state like I am. And how long have you lived in Washington?
Nicole Klauss : I've lived in Washington, six and a half years.
Scott Cowan : Okay, so where's your Where's your favorite place to go in Washington State?
Nicole Klauss : Oh, that's a really, really good question. I guess I I kind of have gone a lot to Seattle a lot and doing the whole downtown by the water thing because once you live here, everyone wants to come visit you and do that. But I feel like it's different every time based on who I'm with. And I I just find that fun for people watching. It's always unique people
Scott Cowan : there. Absolutely. Absolutely. saddle is definitely full of unique people and makes for great people watching. So in ellensburg, share with our listeners, your pick, which is going to be inappropriate right now because we probably can't go there. So what's your favorite place to grab lunch in ellensburg
Nicole Klauss : Well, my favorite place to go for lunch or dinner, I love the red pickle. Mario is the owner. He's really awesome. And he started as a food truck. And then recently, I guess it's been over a year now opened up his own restaurant. And he starts kind of Guatemalan inspired foods. And he makes really great drinks too. That's kind of his passion is mixing up fun drinks. So it's called the red pickle. It's, it's in downtown ellensburg. And it's just really fun environment and really great customer service.
Scott Cowan : All right, so I'm going to ask you this on on on the recording, and then hopefully, I can give you the information. We'll post it in the show notes below. Is there a website that people can go to to learn more about roller derby at the at the league level at the organization that you mentioned? Do they have a website that people can go to?
Nicole Klauss : Yes, so it's just a wf tda.com That stands for women's Derby Association and they can look up like their local league through that.
Scott Cowan : Okay, cool. We'll put that in the show notes below. Um, thank you very much. This was this was fun. I learned more about roller derby in the in 30 minutes than I've ever known in my life. And it sounds like it's definitely something we should be checking out once we're getting back to quote unquote normal. So, thank you for being with us. And actually, yeah, one last thing completely to throw you throw you off off guard. You've written some articles for us, and they've been extremely well received. What's your next article going to be?
Nicole Klauss : Wow, putting me on the spot. Well, hopefully it's a I need to go on a hike. I'll be honest, I've been staying at home and kind of listening to the governor's you know, wishes that I've run, say home but now that state parks are open again. I want to get out there and do a hike, hopefully a waterfall hike. I love those So I don't know exactly what but this weekend, I guess everyone will be out this weekend. So I don't know if I'll go this weekend at the holiday as of recording, but I'm gonna get out there and do it a waterfall hike somewhere
Scott Cowan : in Washington. Awesome. Well, we look forward to you your contribution to to the archives with a waterfall Hi. Quit waiting for that. So that'll be great. Thank you very much for for taking some time to be here with us. And yeah, thank you. I'm glad you were here.
Nicole Klauss : Thank you, Scott. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about roller derby. Something I'm really passionate about.
Scott Cowan : All right, well, we will. We'll sign off now and stay tuned for our next episode.
Unknown Speaker : Thank you for tuning in to another episode of The exploring Washington podcast. Check for our presence on social media pages. And let us know if you know of someone whose contribution to the state needs to be You can reach us at podcast at explore Washington State calm Transcribed by https://otter.ai