Eastbourne is a skating town. Most of its seafront residents – forever viewed as life-weary retired folk by lazy observers – probably don’t realise this, but we haven’t really encountered quite as skater-friendly, and as vibrantly skated, a town as this. By skating of course we mean wheels attached to feet rather than feet attached to bits of wood. If you want to ride on a chunk of maple, we humbly suggest you try Brighton, Bristol or Borstal instead. This is Eastbourne. This is roller skating country.
If you want to know exactly how much Eastbourne is a skating town, take a walk East along the prom. The cycle lane here is also a skating lane, complete with a quad skate pictogram painted alongside the bicycle one every few yards of its route. Walk around a mile along this path and you’l find yourself passing what could be the UK’s only permanent full size outdoor roller derby track, located amongst the concrete basketball and tennis courts that play host to the skating side of Eastbourne Extreme each summer.
If you pass this way on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll probably bump into the next generation of East Sussex roller derby skaters. The Cage (as the location is known) plays host to the New Bournes, Eastbourne’s fledgling junior derby league for 11-17 year olds. Should the weather be disagreeable, they’ll have taken cover inland at the newborn MySkateWorld roller rink, but otherwise (unless they’re watching a senior derby game elsewhere) you’ll find them here 4pm-5pm every Saturday, taking advantage of the fresh air in what is statistically the UK’s sunniest town.
The New Bournes grew out of the Bourne Bombshells, and are always on the look out for new members. To find out more, we caught up with their coaches and the pair of junior skaters who provided the impetus for this, the South Coast’s newest derby league, to come into being…
BEACHY HEADCASE & DRAG ‘N’ FLY – NEW BOURNES COACHES
Whose idea was it to set-up an Eastbourne junior derby league? How long have you been going?
Beachy Headcase: We started on the 16th January this year. It was a common idea between Drag N Fly and me. We were taking our daughters Jemolish and Goldieblocks to Windsor’s Curfew Skate Crew last September, but the 1.5 hour each way drive got the better of us, so we decided to set up our own junior team.
Drag N Fly: We had toyed with the idea since last summer. Headcase and I took the girls along to Windsor in September and they loved it. We set the wheels in motion in about November and decided we could commit to running our own classes.
Are the sessions open to anyone aged 11-17, or do people need to have a particular skating ability level to join up? What kind of things will people learn?
We don’t want to turn anyone away. There are a few coaches at each session so we can accommodate different skill levels. We teach skating skills and derby skills. We start off by teaching people how to start and stop, then go through a standard roller derby fresh meat programme. Wall grippers are welcome.
You do not need any skating skills to join us. We have coaches on hand to help with all levels of skill. People will learn in the long term how to play roller derby. We are running through the derby minimum skills programme.
In what ways (if any) does junior derby differ from regular derby?
There are some differences between junior roller derby and regular derby. We will be teaching contact but we are slowly working our way up to that point. We are focusing on positional blocking, speed and footwork. Our coaching style is quite casual and friendly – we’re not going to pressurise young people or make them feel bad. We want our skaters to have fun while learning new skills. Of course our ultimate goal is to get them competing, just like you would a junior football or rugby team.
There are some differing rules in junior roller derby to accommodate lower endurance. We want the children to enjoy the sport and learn the new skills at their own pace.
Junior derby is relatively new in the UK. How are you promoting the New Bournes and finding your skaters?
We have only been running since January and our current roster is about ten skaters. That’s good for such a young league! Eastbourne is a bit of a skating hotspot. Tim Wheals has been giving lessons and running discos here with Sk8school for many years, and now there is a dedicated roller rink in Eastbourne at MySkateWorld. This is all good for roller derby in Eastbourne. We don’t have a website yet, but you can find out everything you need to know at our Facebook page.
Eastbourne is a very skate friendly town. There are many children in the area who skate. We have currently got about ten skaters, all of whom have found us through word of mouth or Facebook.
What are your ambitions for the league going forward, for the rest of 2014 and beyond?
We eventually want to become a full team and play against other junior leagues, but fun is at the heart of it for us. We are looking forward to Eastbourne Extreme. We’ve been given a short slot and we’ll fill it with a demo, a skate out or full-on jamming and blocking action!
Eastbourne Extreme will be a great promotion for the league and a chance for our skaters to show off their new skills. We will hopefully bout in the future, but there is no set timeframe for this – only when we are ready.
Finally, for any 11-17 year olds reading this who might be interested in giving junior derby a go, what advice can you offer?
Roller derby is the most fun you can have on eight wheels! I’m not exaggerating. We are offering the benefits of playing as part of a team, making new friends and learning cool skating skills. You won’t even realise that you’re actually doing lots of exercise!
We’re promoting sports in the area, giving 11-17 year olds a chance to join a team and have fun. It’s definitely the best way to exercise. Roller derby can be taken as far as you want, as there are many different levels of play. Also it can continue through your adult life too – it’s not something you have to give up at 18 because you are too old.
GOLDIEBLOCKS & JEMOLISH – NEW BOURNES SKATERS
How long have you skated for, and what attracted you to junior roller derby in particular?
Jemolish: I have been skating since I was 18 months old, and when my mum started skating with the Bourne Bombshells two years ago, I just wanted to have a go.
Goldieblocks: I’ve been skating for two years and started playing junior derby six months ago because my mum started playing the sport and it looked like fun!
What are the hardest parts of roller derby to learn? Do you practice much between New Bournes coaching sessions?
I have been struggling with plow stops. I go skating on a Tuesday too and have spent a lot of time practicing
Personally I find transitioning (going forwards to backwards) annoying as well as T-stops. I normally practice once or twice between sessions.
Do you hope to progress onto playing adult derby when you’re older (and are there any things about the sport that scare you)?
Definitely. I go to watch bouts with my family and I can’t wait to be able to play. I’m attracted to the whole thing. The only thing that scares me is possibly hurting myself and then not being able to play for a few months.
Of course! The thing that attracts me about the sport is the fact that anyone can play, eg I’m not really sporty yet this is one I enjoy. Many people get put off by the contact aspect of the sport, but whatever you play there’s the possibility of injury, eg tennis elbow. I mean, kids play rugby and we think nothing of it. So why shouldn’t kids play derby?
What advice would you give to someone reading this who might be interested in taking up junior roller derby?
If you enjoy skating and enjoy team sports then you will love derby. It’s skating for a reason. Awesome!
Don’t waste time! Join up! You’ll meet amazing people and have a ton of fun.
CONTACT: The New Bournes skate on Saturday afternoons at the Cage on Eastbourne seafront or the MySkateWorld roller rink. For more information visit their Facebook page at the link below.
[Photos by John Hesse]