Kaua‘i Skaters Jam In Arizona
It all started in a garage. A few working moms who skated recreationally began toying with the idea of creating a roller derby league.
With the challenge of finding a venue, they played nearly anywhere they could, which included community basketball courts, tennis courts, driveways and even in that same garage where the initial idea was developed. Their motto at that time was, “If We Can Tape It, We Can Skate It.”
That was just two years ago, and now with 24 active players and a successful Mainland trip under their belts, the women of the Garden Island Renegade Rollerz are picking up steam.
“It’s very empowering for women,” G.I.R.R. co-creator and player Kanoe Ahuna says. “It builds up self-esteem, keeps us in shape and relieves our stress.”
There are two teams – the Buck’n Fitches and HI-Rollerz – and each woman has a unique nickname, like Ahuna’s, whtrackcourt as “Suki-2U.”
According to its Web site, a roller derby match is comprised of two teams with four players each: three “blockers” a “pivot” and a “jammer.” All players skate counterclockwise, and each team’s jammer starts behind the other players.
Points are scored when a jammer breaks through the pack of skaters, races ahead to rejoin the back of the pack and then attempts to jam through once again, scoring a point for each opponent passed. The jammer has two minutes to score.
Besides battling each other, G.I.R.R. has already played and beaten a Hilo squad, and earlier this month five players helped form a Hawaii all-star team that competed in Arizona against much more experienced Mainland teams.
“We won one game, but lost two,” Ahuna says. “We gave a really good Santa Cruz team a hard fight till the end. We lost by two points, but we played a really good game with a lot of heart.”
The team played the Sin City Roller Girls of Las Vegas in its first match, which they lost, but bounced back with a victory against Assassination City Roller Girls from Texas.
“It was a good win, but that team was more equal to us, so it was nice to have a win, but it felt even better to challenge Santa Cruz,” Ahuna says.
“All in all we did good, especially considering that we had to catch flights to practice with each other.”
The Kaua’i contingent included Ahuna (Suki-2-U), Kelly Chune (Calamity Crush), Tammy Fernandez (Tamminator), Kai Lovell (Kaizer PermaMento) and Aurora Deverill (The Warden).
“It got rough,” Ahuna says. “Cookie Cutter from Oahu broke her ankle in the last game. But it was a great experience for us.”
A Sacred Hearts Academy graduate, Ahuna runs a nonprofit Native Hawaiian education program and will earn a Ph.D. in educational leadership in August.
The mother of three still keeps her family as priority No. 1. Case in point: Her husband, Dan Ahuna, is the team’s coach.
“Each girl had to bring an idea to practice for us to use in our scrimmages, and I brought Dan,” she says. “They loved him – he knew about stretching and everything just clicked.”
Dan Ahuna, a former University of Hawaii star slot back, likens the sport to the one he knows so well.
“It’s like football,” he says. “It’s the same thing: You gotta play offense and defense. I tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s any different. They have rules and objectives to the game. I wish I could play the game, but I gotta support my wife.”
As the coach, Ahuna admits it has helped him gain a greater appreciation for women.
“I read a book just to understand women,” he says. “You know the one Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus? I read that.”
They’re learning from each other, after an idea that started a mere two years ago, that has now turned into a popular activity that women on Kaua’i can skate to.
“We’re looking to host Hilo in June, and we have the San Diego Derby Dolls in October,” Kanoe Ahuna says. “We’re looking for a venue for that, possibly having one or two more games, hosting two more teams, one from Colorado and one from California. For us we feel like we’re helping our island with hospitality. They book hotels, eat here, plus they’ll bring their families and friends.”
Practices are held at the Kapaa Armory and at Kalena Park in Lihue.
The league also is looking for officials and anyone who wants to get involved in a junior derby program. For more information, contact Kelly Chune at (651) 398-4380.