What is Roller Derby?

In 1935, during the Great Depression, Leo Seltzer invented a spectacle called Roller Derby. Sometime in early 1935, Leo read an article in Literary Digest magazine that said ninety-three percent of Americans roller skated at one time or another during their lives. Discussing the article with some of the regulars at Ricketts, a restaurant in Chicago’s Near North Side, Seltzer was challenged to come up with a sport utilizing roller skating participants.

Originally, the derby was a long distance track race. Periodically collisions and crashes occurred as skaters tried to lap those ahead of them. Seltzer realized this was the most exciting part of the event and Roller Derby became a full contact sport with elbowing, body checks and fights. The fans loved it. The sport peaked in the late forties and fifties, drawing as many as 30-40 thousand fans per bout. The hype continued through the sixties and seventies until the expense of travel and competition from other entertainment forms killed off the larger leagues in the late 1970s.

Since then, Roller Derby has remained largely dormant until recently. The National all-female derby revival began in 2001 in Austin, Texas and has been gathering speed ever since. The new generation of derby skaters pays homage to the theatrical tradition of the past but play by real rules with real penalties, real referees and real champions. Modern day roller derby is a fast paced, hard hitting, explosive sport that combines the spirit of Seltzer’s vision with genuine athleticism.

Flat-track roller derby has captured the hearts and minds of a diverse and highly-sought after demographic. It appeals to people from all walks of life, from the veteran fans of the banked track, to 20-something hipsters who, before roller derby, wouldn’t have been caught dead at a sporting event. With an insatiable appetite for life, and an intense dedication to drama, kitsch and extreme sports, roller derby fans and players alike are a demographic you want. Both fans and skaters are from all walks of life.

In any given roller derby league you will find that the skaters regularly consist of women that range from occupations such as stay at home mothers to artists, researchers, doctors, students, teachers and the list goes on. Within the diverse crowd you will find mothers, fathers, kids, grandparents, coworkers and college students and hardcore fans sitting side-by-side, cheering on their favorite skaters and teams. Our demographics cut across gender, race and age, with the average fan in the middle- to upper-middle-class tax bracket and between 20–45 years old. The High Altitude Roller Derby Girls provide quality, family-friendly entertainment with an edgy component that captures the imagination of fans and the media.

The roller derby resurgence receives great local and national media exposure; with multiple television and other media deals in the works, Roller Derby is poised to continue exponential growth.