Birch Bay residents find community with Bellingham Roller Betties

By Oliver Lazenby

The 2019 season for the Bellingham Roller Betties, the local nonprofit roller derby league, started in January and a growing number of people from Blaine and Birch Bay are getting involved in the contact sport on wheels.

Betties’ home bouts are at the Lynden Skateway or Whatcom Community College. The Betties’ next bout starts at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9, at Lynden.

The sport pits two teams of five skaters against each other on a flat track. Each team has one “jammer” who scores points by passing other skaters. The other skaters use body contact and teamwork to stop the opposing team’s jammer.

It’s an action-packed sport, but many get involved for the people rather than the athleticism. Troy Hodges, a 35-year-old Birch Bay resident, started as a derby official last year because his sister, daughter, girlfriend and niece are all part of the Bellingham Roller Betties.

His daughter skates in the Subdued City Rollers junior league, and Hodges joined to be an official. Though he doesn’t skate, he still found a family with the league.

“I haven’t seen camaraderie like this since I was in the service,” said Hodges, whose derby name is Boom Cookie, a reference to his artillery job in the military. “When one player goes down, the entire team takes a knee.”

Kira Lachapelle, 25, also a Birch Bay resident, started the sport this year and is working on passing the skills test that the league requires before a skater can compete in bouts.

“I’m not really a sports person so it wasn’t the athletic part of it that interested me, it was the community,” she said. “They’re all wonderful people and they’re very inclusive.”

The league consists of an all-star team that competes against derby teams from other regions, and several local teams that play each other throughout the local season, which begins on March 30 with a double-header at Whatcom Community College.

Tickets to most bouts are $10 for adults and $6 for kids aged 8–12. Kids seven and under get in free.

Spectators don’t need to know all the rules to enjoy roller derby, said Roller Betties marketing manager Cynthia French.

“One of the fun things is you don’t have to know what’s going on out there, you’ll learn as you watch.” she said. “Once you know what to look for, it’s even better.”

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