November 2011 Featured Skater: Suzy Hotrod

November 2, 2011

Suzy Hotrod’s first incarnation was as a 3-chord guitar player in an all girl punk band. Who knew the bouncing she mastered there would transfer so well to the flat track? Suzy Hotrod now represents roller derby on an international stage – as the longest-skating member of Gotham Girls Roller Derby, on Team USA, and in ESPN The Magazine and Jam City Rollergirls – and the sport couldn’t ask for a better role model. What’s next for Suzy Hotrod? WFTDA Championships in Broomfield, CO, of course. Read on to learn more about one of roller derby’s most recognizable skaters…

Photo by Jules Doyle

Name: Suzy Hotrod

Number: 55

Tagline: If you practice anything you'll get good at something.

Home league: Gotham Girls Roller Derby

Home Team: Queens of Pain

What is your roller derby playing position of choice?
I play jammer, but I really enjoy blocking when I get to do it.

What is your skate gear of choice?
Riedell 595 Boots, Reactor Plate, Atom Juke skinny wheels in varying hardness. Riedell and Atom make lots of great stuff, so find what works best for you, (and buy it at Five Stride Skate Shop!). Remember: using the same gear as me won't make you skate like me, practicing hard will.

Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
Eating a combination of whatever I have around from this list: peanut butter, brown rice, quinoa, berries, spinach, bananas, almonds, chicken. PUT IN SAME BOWL, CONSUME, 2 hours before game. Then it’s putting my War Paint Stripes on my face.

What is your favorite derby moment?
Winning the WFTDA Championships in 2008, I hope to repeat this feeling in 2011!

Who are your derby heroes?
I can't say I have heroes for roller derby because derby is new, everyone playing it is my contemporary, colleague, equal. I view it as I have my teammates and we have our competition. I get inspiration and drive from my teammates, and I find motivation to always improve from my competition. Also, I'll be the one to come out and say it: no one who's insanely competitive likes to name names of who they're watching. Haha.

Do you have a motivational quote?
Michael Phelps said, "For every 1 day out of the pool, it takes 2 days to get back."

What do you think about when you're lacing up your skates?
"Man these skates are tight."

Do you have a theme song?
I love Andrew WK's "I Love New York City." It makes me want to stomp loud, bounce around, scream, punch, and smash things. Also, it really makes me smile and gives me major pride chills. I really do think I'm lucky to live in NYC.

Suzy Hotrod and the GGRD All-Stars v Denver Roller Dolls
Photo by Tom Igoe

Do you have a signature move?
Hopping and jumping all over the place. I like to consider myself a fighter; that I'll go down swinging. My leaguemate told me that getting hit with my ass hurt like being beaten with a rolling pin. I blushed.

How did you get involved with roller derby?
I joined roller derby in 2004 when it was like 6 girls trying to learn to skate during jam skate night in the South Bronx. CC Bullets worked at the same clothing design place as league founder Chassis Crass. CC was the first skater to join, and she told me about it. I had no idea what it was, but I had free time on my hands since I was out of college and my band had just broken up. I am currently the longest skating skater in Gotham.

How did you come up with your derby name?
My derby name was my band stage name years before roller derby existed. Personality Crisis, baby! One too many fakes names, no thanks. [ note: Before roller derby, Suzy Hotrod played guitar in an all girl punk band. She claims, “all girls is important, cause I'm used to working with crazy women, and punk is important cause it means I don't necessarily play guitar well, but I could play 3 chords and was known for bouncing around kind of like when I skate.”]

Any advice for girls who want to join roller derby?
If you're even debating trying it, try it! See if you fall in love. You'll know immediately if it’s for you. Never be afraid of anything. Get up quickly. And please remember to develop your poor neglected hamstrings.

In addition to being a very recognizable name in the world of roller derby, you have a very distinctive look. Can you please tell us about your signature war paint and red lipstick?
I loved getting dressed up to perform when I was in a band. I felt great when I'd get all dolled up in tons of makeup and wear my special stage clothes like crazy pants and slutty shirts. I liked the way I looked. I also liked being without makeup and in regular jeans and tee shirts during the day. I am a serious athlete, and wearing red lipstick and black eyeliner is who I am when it’s time to be in front of the crowd. Red lips don't affect my athletic integrity or abilities, I happen to like it, so I wear it. It’s important to do what you love and be yourself and do what's comfortable for you. (Also, I wear nuclear grade lipstick that doesn't come off for 2 days, so it’s not like I'm stopping in between jams to reapply. I can't be bothered by that shit!) When I did ESPN Magazine, I felt most naked because they insisted I get natural makeup, WHAAA?? I felt really weird and not myself at first.

My war paint started in the Bronx in 2004. Carmen Monoxide's sister Tammy Faye Breaker did our makeup. She had a tube of gunmetal pigment. I put on some stripes like Nikki Sixx. I am a creature of habit, so it stuck.

Photo by Manish Gosalia

How long have you been playing roller derby? How long do you plan to continue playing roller derby?
I joined roller derby in 2004, so 7 years so far. I have no plans to ever retire. This is my life. Once my body is not capable to perform in the sport I hope to coach. Also, I can always play music again once my body is broken.

How would you describe your derby playing style?
I would describe my jamming style as just on the edge of out of control. I am the opposite of graceful. Smashy smashy is popular with me. And I'm pretty hippity hoppity. My mantra is: jammers have freedom to do whatever they want and everyone else has to react. (When I block I think the opposite.)

What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I played track and basketball in grade school and quickly quit them once I got to high school because I liked marching band better. I was physically inactive while attending art college and played in bands. Roller derby awakened my inner athlete. I could not skate when I started. Nor had I broken a sweat athletically in over 7 years. Roller derby changed my life and my body.

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
I've won awards in my league for Team MVP and League MVP, and I won the DNN readers poll for Double Threat in 2010. I am most proud of the leadership roles I've had. I've been a leader with my home team, a little with the All-Stars, and now Team USA. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to help lead a team and motivate them.

Off the track?
Well, one time I got a free burrito from Chipotle for being a roller derby skater and I didn't even have to work as a bout volunteer for 8 hours of manual labor! That was a special day! Random "nice" men like to shout "compliments" at me on the street about my body all the time. I am quite popular. Also, for some reason there are a lot of dogs and cats named after me. I guess that's a compliment, but when I think of bad Suzy Hotrod shitting on the carpet, I laugh.

Can you talk a bit about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby?
My rookie year we played our first public bout with I think 7 skaters on each team. Smarty Pants and Dyna Dash came to NYC from Texas to teach us roller derby. I said, I had better learn to skate before they get here! So I took my Chicago black high boot skates I got at Modell's for $30 to Astoria Park and skated there almost every day to get better. When I joined, I didn't know anything. I never thought I could make it around the track to be a jammer because I thought a roller derby track was the size of a giant roller rink! The first time I wore speed skates I couldn't stand on the sidewalk in them without them slipping out from below me like banana peels. Stopping was SO HARD!

What advice do you have for other jammers who aspire to play like you?
If you want to jam like me, don't think too much, try to run on instinct and just GO! Play with heart. Respect skill development. Good footwork and speed control are crucial no matter what your style. I am a Keith Richards-esque wreck out there, but I try so hard to always improve my edge work and speed control.

Image courtesy of Frozen Codebase

There are very few skaters who can actually skate like you on the track; however, everyone has the opportunity to skate as Suzy Hotrod in Jam City Rollergirls, the Frozen Codebase roller derby video game. How does it feel to be a video game character? Please tell us a little about the process of becoming a character in the game. Have you had the opportunity to play Jam City Rollergirls as yourself?
Being a video game character is something else! We have my cardboard cutout hanging in our practice space. I want people to know that the accessories on my character like the name belt buckle and my converse skates were all my ideas, baby! I got to give a lot of feedback to Frozen Codebase. I was quite insistent they give me cool pants. There were many e-mails about pants.

I got to play the game as it was developed at WFTDA Nationals and Rollercon. It reminds me of Mario Kart. My niece is much better at it than I am.

Photo courtesy of ESPN

You were one of the featured athletes in ESPN the magazine’s Body Issue. Congratulations! Who were you most excited to meet at the ESPN party? Who was most excited to meet you? How do you think your experience with ESPN and the Body Issue will influence the sport of roller derby?
At the ESPN party I really wanted to meet Apollo Ohno. But he wasn't there. He's the reason we jump up and down so many stairs in training. I was really excited to meet Natasha Hastings the 400-meter runner. When I did run track in weenie grade school, that was my race, and even though I was a kid, I knew that that race was a hard race. It wasn't for someone who was naturally just gifted with turbo speed; those were the shorter races. 400m was hard, a whole lap sprint. Endurance, speed, and heart. Julie Chu, the hockey player, was my favorite. We hung out quite a bit and talked about food! And I listened super intently when she told me what it was like to be in the Olympics.

I don't know if anyone was excited to meet me, haha. I was more running around with a giant stupid grin all night meeting them! But I was really impressed that Steven Jackson, the professional football player, came up and introduced himself to me, while I was standing around nervous and awkward at the start of the dinner. He was great at breaking the ice, very polite, and dressed really nice in a tux.

As for what being in the magazine will do for the sport of roller derby, I have high hopes. Being included in such a respected sports publication will bring exposure to many people that maybe didn't know roller derby was even around now. It also helps legitimize us as athletes. Maybe Nair will come talk to me to feature my legs in some "short shorts" haha.

Photo by Sean Hale

We heard there was a cast of your arm that was reproduced as a sculpture. What was this done for and who was the artist behind the work?
My arm was cast for our charity fundraiser auction. It was made by Anne Silvernail, aka Anne Phetamean. It was a bronze coated plaster sculpture. Anne worked her ass off making that sculpture as a pure donation to help raise money for our league. Her talent and the hours she donated – I am really in awe of her. I also love the sculpture because it has a sense of humor. She cast it to be like I was arm wrestling you. But the hand is such that you can also put a beer in it, a tv remote control, etc.! To have a handmade work of art made of you is the greatest feeling I've ever had. It’s a weird feeling at first, but really it’s something so moving it makes you want to cry. Plus, I have so much respect for artists and how they can create such amazing things.

The Gotham Girls Roller Derby All-Stars have been ranked #1 in the East region for every quarter since 2008, except for one quarter when you were #2. You’ve been skating with Gotham since 2004. In your opinion, what are the reasons for the league’s consistency? What do you feel is your contribution to the team's consistently high level of play?
Gotham Girls will always be a strong team and league. (Note: At least I can say that the one quarter we were ranked #2 in the East, I literally broke my knee cap trying to win that regional championship game! Luckily I was back and healed in 4 weeks to play in the Champs.) I am going to "NYC diva" out here and say this: New York City is not where you're from. It’s a place you go to because you want something, pursuing a dream. If you aren't giving 100%, you fail and get the hell outta here. So if you manage to survive here, you're a fighter. These characteristics – no matter what drew you to New York – are the roller derby work ethic. But those things only get you so far without the strong institution we have in place here. Less than 100% is unacceptable. Drive to be the best is infectious and we really feed off each other. We are extremely competitive, hard working, and most importantly respectful of each other.

As far as my involvement to drive the team, last year I almost moved to Philly and I knew that Gotham would continue to remain at the top without me because what they have transcends individual bodies. It is humbling. It has nothing to do with you, it has to do with the training, the whole team, the whole league, the leadership. Package deal. I'd like to think that I bring drive and humor to it. But I am merely a small cog in a machine.

How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
Sports were great as a kid. Then I had no interest in sports as I was figuring out who I was as an individual. I'm glad I pulled away from parent encouraged juvenile athletics and figured out that I liked stuff like music, art, and sitting at the "weird kid" table at the back of the cafeteria. I loved going to shows, being a funny clothes wearing teenager and doing the art school thing for college.

I find that as a 30 year old adult, sports are really fitting to who I am now. I have a career during the day. I like working out after work on the track, going home, cooking a nice meal, and getting sleep. That's a great day, ya know? I like stuff like a good meal or a good night's sleep. I also like traveling now and skating takes me all over the world.

Roller derby has changed my life. Multitasking a career and being a skater has taught me a lot of discipline and responsibility in order to have both. I am more reliable professionally in my career. My apartment is cleaner. My bills are paid on time. I am more organized. My body is happier. My spirit is happier. I think sweating daily keeps not only your body, but also your brain healthy. It provides a great joy in my life through making tremendous sacrifices with a lot of people together and seeing it pay off.

We understand that you work as a photographer in your non-derby life. Is there overlap between your work and roller derby? How, if possible, do you achieve balance in your daily life?
I love my day job because I get to be creative and work around food all day. I work photographing prepared food and products for an online grocery website. My work is proud and supportive of me being a roller derby athlete. The CEO announced me being chosen for the World Cup Team during our all hands meeting. It’s hard to go to work on Mondays after being on a big derby weekend of bouting and being "derby famous," coming back down to the life of SCHWARZWALDER! But I find joy in having a 2nd facet to my life where I am part of a creative team. My boss trusts me and gives me freedom. I enjoy collaborating with the chefs on shoots. My subjects don't move much so if I suffer any injuries I won't miss any work. Health insurance and vacation days are why I can play roller derby. My job is the biggest sponsor I have as a skater.

Is there any other information we haven't covered in the previous questions that you’d like to share with the readers?
For a free Suzy Hotrod sticker, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:
GGRD- Suzy Hotrod
PO Box 226
NY, NY 10014

Like my athlete page on Facebook:

Follow me on Twitter: @suzyhotrod55

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 and let us know what makes you shine.

Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.