February 2011 Featured Skater: Hurricane Heather

February 2, 2011

For this skater, roller derby was a natural fit as she spent most of her youth honing her skating skills as a self-proclaimed rink rat. Her amazing agility on skates—and her love of being airborne—comes through as she jams for Steel City; pushing to set new records and keep her play exciting not only for herself, but for her teammates and fans. Learn more about Steel City roller girl, Hurricane Heather...

Photo by Ziv Kruger

Name: Hurricane Heather

Number: Category 5

League: Steel City Derby Demons

Team you play for: Steel Hurtin’

What is your (roller derby) position of choice?

Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
I have to be in a healthy, positive state of mind, so I always make sure to laugh! My favorite secret weapon is to watch the TV show “America’s Funniest Home Videos”. If you are laughing, you are happy, and when you are happy, you are in a positive state of mind.

What are some of your best/favorite moments in roller derby?
Almost breaking the WFTDA record for most points scored in one jam at the 2010 Eastern Region Playoffs tournament. It’s okay that I don’t have it because I have more drive and desire for it knowing that I was close. It gives me something to work for this season!

Do you have a motivational quote?
If you focus on your mistakes in the past you will attract those same mistakes tomorrow! Focus on the NOW because your life and your experiences is whatever you want it to be.

What goes through your brain as you lace up your skates?
I think that I am the luckiest person in the world to be given such an opportunity! I was in a bad accident when I was a child in which I could have lost my leg. But I didn’t, and every time I see the scar that covers half of my right leg while I’m lacing up my skates or my running shoes I have to laugh. It makes me appreciate being an athlete so much more knowing that things could have been so much different for me. 

Do you have a theme song?
Right now it’s Fort Minor’s “Remember the Name”. But, anything with loud, bumpin’ bass, really. Nothing gets my blood pumping more than a catchy hip-hop mix that makes me want to imagine myself in some bad-ass slow motion movie clip…come on…who doesn’t think that way??

Do you have a signature move?
Hopping. I like going airborne whenever possible. It sends a jolt of adrenaline through my veins when I juke from side to side then jump in the air with absolutely no idea where or how I am going to land. That’s the main thrill of roller derby for me!

Photo by Manish Gosalia

Any advice for girls who want to join roller derby?
Skate as often as possible at busy, open sessions at your local rink. When you learn to easily avoid that 7-year old roller blader trucking at you in the wrong direction, aiming directly for your knees, without flinching—then you have already acquired the first steps of pack awareness. It’s great practice!!!

How would you describe your derby playing style?
I believe that my style is more of a jam skater—with juking and hopping, but my teammate and former captain, Athena, likes to call me the “Sammy Davis Jr. of Roller Derby” because I look like I’m tap dancing through the pack. So I guess that works out to be a roller skating tap dancer?

How did you get involved with roller derby?
I’ve been jam skating for a long time and when I had heard through a friend that this group was looking for girls that could skate, I wanted in. I can’t imagine what my life would be if I didn’t make that call.

How long have you been playing roller derby?
I joined in the beginning of 2006, so five years now.

What is your sports/skating background?
I did varsity cross country and track for my high school, but every weekend you could find me at the roller rink. I’m so lucky that my friends shared the same passion of going left a lot. Instead of going out drinking or getting in trouble, we decided to become rink-rats instead!

From what we understand you are one of the friendliest jammers on the track, even apologizing to other jammers before blocking them out of play. How do you keep your athletic edge while being so nice?
I think that is very sweet that opponents are saying that. It means a lot to me! As I mentioned before, I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the universe. Everyone that I encounter, including the opposing team is helping me build upon this wild ride. I think everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and if I could help, even just a little, by making the opposing team have a little more fun and feel less pressure about the game, then I want to help and be a part of that. I know how easy it is to feel pressure during a bout and how badly it affects your game play—but if you can help relax the other jammers and let them know that you are there for the pure love of derby THEY play harder and give you more of a challenge! This helps everyone get better as individual players and usually gives the audience a more fierce game to watch! It’s a win-win.

Photo by Chris Bail

Your skating ability is apparent on the track, but if someone somehow missed it they would likely find out at the after party. What got you started with jam skating and how do you feel it helps you in roller derby?
I met my best friend/jam skate partner, Justin, when I was 13 years old—right around the same time our local rink was closing its doors forever. When Justin got old enough to drive, we decided to start a traveling group so that we would travel to rinks in neighboring towns. Within a few short years our group was traveling up to 9 hours just to roller skate in a new rink for one weekend. We had observed other jam skaters and dance teams in over 75 different rinks (and counting) and had soon formed our own dances involving synchronized footwork, striding and various break-dancing moves. Our group is known as “The Steel City Jammers”. All three of my teammates, Joe Pazur, Steve Robb, and Justin—Dizzle—Santoro come to all of my games and support me. Knowing that my skating team is watching, it encourages me to use more creative footwork to advance my positioning in the pack. I would highly recommend any derby girl learning how to jam skate because it brings a world of confidence to your feet—and that reflects directly on the derby track.

The Steel City Jammers will be hosting our fourth annual all night Jam Skate on March 26th at Neville Island Roller Rink. Details of the event can be found on our facebook page at Facebook.com/steelcityjammers.

We're impressed to learn that not only are you a multi-talented skater, you are also a talented singer. Is this a hobby of yours or do you just stick to singing the national anthem?
It’s a hobby. If I had more time I would love to start another band like I had in high school. I love to sing in general—karaoke, in my car, in the shower, and even in inappropriate public places. In my next life I will be a figure skating ballerina rock star.

Your home season starts in February, any predictions for Steel City's sixth season? I think this is going to be our best season yet. Over the Christmas break a large majority of our girls started working with personal trainers and in a few short months many of us had dropped weight and really buffed up. Our communication with one another has really clicked and I am excited to see where we stand in rankings after this season.

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments?
Getting selected as WFTDA’s featured skater of the month is definitely at the top. I’m not sure who to thank for that, but THANK YOU! After that it’s FINALLY breaking 25 points in one jam. Thanks to my team I had two 30-point jams at the Eastern Region Playoffs this past year.

Anyone you'd like to take the opportunity to thank?
My league and my team: they really push me to always try my hardest. I’m really lucky to have such a great coaching staff and teammates that always have my back! I have to thank my jam skate team for helping me trust myself on wheels and teaching me how to make falling look like I meant to do it. And lastly I have to thank my parents for showing up for every game that they could, and raising me to have a world of confidence in every challenge that I take on.

Would you like to be the WFTDA Featured Skater of the month (or nominate one of your fantastic teammates)? If you are an active skater on a WFTDA full member league that has a dazzling derby career, please contact webmaster@wftda.com and let us know what makes you shine.

Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.