March 7, 2016
International fans had the chance to see Die Die's mastery on the track this past fall, first at the WFTDA D1 Playoffs in Jacksonville, FL and then again in St. Paul at Championships. Honored with an MVP award for her performance in Jacksonville, Die Die's hard work, determination and teamwork is hard to ignore. Learn more about our featured March skater!
Name: Die Die
League: London Rollergirls
How did you get involved with roller derby?
I had just realized roller derby was an actual, existing sport and to my surprise a league had already been formed in Oslo the year before. I looked them up and found out they were having an open practice within the next couple of weeks. A few days later I was at a concert and started randomly talking with the girl standing next to me. It turned out she skated with Oslo and she persuaded me to commit to my plans of coming to the open practice. I guess it was meant to be. I had absolutely no idea what I had just signed up for, but the fact that I could roll around and hit people was all I needed to know.
What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I played soccer from when I was 7 until my twenties and my parents took me skiing every weekend during my childhood. I’ve also been windsurfing, snowboarding, mountain trekking and climbing. The closest I’d come to quad skating was rollerblading a bit as a teenager and playing bandy (russian ice hockey) with friends. I really enjoy trying new types of sports - put me on a field, give me the equipment and briefly explain the rules and I will have a great time no matter what it is. At least for the first two hours….
Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
My very first practice happened to be a 2 day bootcamp in Oslo with exotic coaches from the London Rockin' Rollers Jack Attack and Von Bitch. The Monday I was reduced to a lump of badly cooked meat, so here started a new training regime. I skated as much as I possibly could. I thought about derby all the time. I spent all my money on tournaments, gear and international bootcamps. After about 8 months of skating I became captain of my own league and we started to regularly play other teams. With then president Eda, we booked in even more weekly practice hours, external coaches for home bootcamps, home games and away games. In retrospect, we might have pushed the team a little too hard, but we were addicted. Oslo the fastest climbing team in Europe that year, gaining about a 100 places in the rankings. At the end of my time with Oslo I was coaching more than I was skating, which was satisfactory in a different way, but I was hungry for harder challenges. With my girlfriend Fenix already living in London, the move was an easy choice. Coming to LRG at that point was like taking back the fresh meat period I never had. What a luxury being coached by someone else every session.
What is your skate gear of choice?
My feet feel at home in Riedell 495's, but truth to be told I haven’t tried all that many boots. Ever since I broke my Revenge plates, I’ve been skating on Stefanie Mainey's old Pilot plates - so that was a pretty random choice. But they do their job. I go through pads like they were a rough toothbrusher’s toothbrushes. They get worn out very quickly. Maybe because I like clean pads and wash them too often. I have found a few features that I like with each of them, but not yet the PERFECT pads. I am currently on Pro Designed pads and they have lasted for more than a year. They’re slim and they’re handmade, so I’m pretty happy with them (even if Raw Heidi complains that they are leaving marks on her arm because the scratchy part is facing out). I also exclusively roll on Rollerbones Turbos. This one is by choice and not laziness. I love those wheels.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
I’m not quite sure I have a pre-game ritual. But maybe I do. It’s very inconsistent and fluid. I like to dance. Just put on some groovy tunes, close my eyes, disregard everything I around me and let the rhythm take over. Then we have the power braids. On our last 3 stateside trips my teammates braided my hair. This has really been working for us. But I suspect that it is more of a ritual for the braiders. I’ve also been enjoying playing idiot derby with Go Go on the track pre-warm up. It’s just a continuous jam and block against each other in a never ending swirl where strange techniques are encouraged. It gets my heart rate up and gives me just the right amount of playfulness versus aggressiveness to put me in the right head space, switch on my reactiveness, and really test my wheels.
Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
Fenix and I talked about this once with Fenix’ mom, who at a certain point misheard the quote, “Don’t underestimate your opponent.” She thought it said, “Don’t underestimate your pony.” I like the original quote, but this adds a whole new aspect to it. They look cute and fluffy and all that, but ponies can be dicks too.
Do you have a theme song?
No. I listened to Gaz’ playlist before some of the playoffs games and enjoyed the surprise with every new song that started. Before most of my champs games I listened to Rage Against the Machine and liked the energy it gave my dancing. But essentially it all comes down to the dancing. I’ve had the idea for a while that Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ would make a decent pre-game song, but since I suck at organizing pre-game rituals I never managed to try it. Maybe next time.
What is your position of choice?
I love blocking. I love how complex and fast-paced it is. So many actions from so many people are happening all at the same time in a very small space. I guess it’s impossible to completely control every aspect of this game, and still I try. My ultimate goal in roller derby is something I can always strive toward but never will obtain: some sort of a roller derby nirvana. When your awareness and understanding and ability to predict is so insanely high that it feels like time is stopped. In a Matrix ‘bullet time’ sort of way. You know where every skater on the track is, what they are thinking, how their trajectories will influence everyone else’s trajectory, when and where the next impact will come and what the outcome will be. It would be so beautiful.
How would you describe your derby playing style? Do you have a signature move? I’m an asshole. I’m the rearmost skater in our diamond formation and obviously my teammates found a flattering name for it. I stick my butt out at the back of the pack to get the first bite at the jammer. I guess I’m sort of an impact absorber. I also like to move people with a few efficient techniques. And last year I spent an awful lot of time bridging Juke Boxx. Snappy bridging is underestimated.
Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
Track Queens Berlin as a spectator. EROC 2013 a learning hungry league building skater. Beating Nidaros with my old team Oslo in the finals in the Norwegian championships when we were the underdogs no one thought would win. Winning playoffs in 2015 and then being awarded MVP was quite mind blowing and the following dancing at the after party was intense. Brawling’s California Tour was another long epic moment, we shared a whole house together, had BBQs in the garden, and cruised around in our beloved car Fresh Fifi. I also really appreciated our game against Texas. It was a very close game, but we felt so in control, so sure about our own game, there was no doubt in our minds we would win that game.
What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
Perfectly timed effortless offense that gets my jammer through. And when we outsmart the opponent, where they think they’ve figured out how to beat our formation but then still can’t do it and their jammer just slowly dies on my back. I also find intense moments of teamwork to be magical. When things happen at insane speed and we still manage to move into all the right places, without saying a word because...we just know. All of it within a blink of an eye. I might be a good asshole, but without the rest of the body and the actual ass, what am I really? A hole? A hole is air. Air is nothing. I’m not really trying to undermine myself, it’s just that the unspoken, finely tuned, instinctive teamwork is the real magic. In a sport where the success of a team is mainly determined by the ability to fix unforeseen chaos happening at incredible speed - the greatest accomplishments often depend on how well you and your teammates can predict each other’s movement. It’s like turning a few variables into solid numbers in an equation which is pretty much all variables.
Off the track?
I don’t know if coaching can be considered “off the track” - but I do enjoy coaching a lot. To be able to give just the right input to someone and see how their game improves instantly is a great feeling.
Could you share with us some of your personal training routine, on and off the track?
I like to be diverse and do lots of activities. I’m more than happy to swap out a regular cardio workout with an actual sport. For my daily routine I believe in powerlifting. For a series of reasons. I used to feel that going to the gym just took forever and I was never sure what I gained. I spent a lot of time researching training methods and ultimately found out that I could spend less time training more muscles harder in a more functional way. That’s why my routine now consists of deadlifts, squats, bench presses and overhead presses. Complemented by assistance exercises.
What have of the toughest losses of your career taught you?
I can’t answer this question without telling an anecdote from a year and a half back. I had just made the London Brawling 20 roster and started training with Brawling before playoffs in 2014. When the playoffs 14 roster subsequently was selected I was on it. A few days later someone realized there had been a miscommunication and the new wftda charter had not been submitted to the WFTDA in time for playoffs. In other words, even though I had been selected, I would not be able to go. I was absolutely completely and totally devastated. During one of my many talks with Kamikaze Kitten to cheer me up she told me that one day, when I would be WFTDA featured skater of the month, this would be one of the stories I would tell and then everyone who would read it would go, “Those idiots!” and then we could all laugh about it. I actually am laughing, or at least smiling like a grandpa, at the fact that she was right. Also, I fouled out in the first game during champs last year. It was my first time fouling out in my entire derby career. It was also my first game after having received the MVP award. I took it quite hard and went through all kinds of thoughts like, “I am not an MVP,” and stuff like that. I had to take myself by the neck and force myself to look forward. I realized that what would make me MVP worthy was not whether I would fall into a ditch at some point, but what I would do once I was in that ditch. I discovered that it was pointless to try to fill the ditch, because I would just end up burying my feet. So I climbed out and left it behind, well aware that there are ditches but keeping the focus on what to do next.
Who are your derby heroes?
I admire the Rose City Rollers for their creativeness, I admire the Gotham Girls for their smart playing and routine and I admire Angel City for bringing a new level of fitness to the game. I can feel directly on my skin how fast it is making the sport develop. It was great to have someone like Scald Eagle to look up to when I was still learning how to control my body in the right way. I find it inspiring how tall people use their bodies to play derby slightly differently from short people. I will also never forget the first time I saw London Brawling play live. This was probably 6 months or so after I started skating. It was a power jam situation and London was doing what appeared to be some passive offense in a line on the side. A girl from the other team standing on the opposite side of the track said to her teammates, “They’re doing the sausage!” Stefanie Mainey’s response was to step out of the sausage, run across the track, hit that girl right in the chest so she flew backwards say, “This is not a fucking sausage.” Stef - you will always be my hero for this.
Have you held any leadership positions in your league? How have those positively impacted your personal roller derby career?
I captained and trained Oslo Roller Derby for a big part of the beginning of my roller derby adventure. It taught me a lot about group dynamics, individual needs within a group and teamwork. Captaining has largely helped me find focus. I found it difficult in the beginning, because I was more concentrated on the team and structural stuff than on myself - and this made my game suffer. I gradually learned how to focus on the right things and find my own focus in the game regardless of what was going on around me. Being in a coaching position is something I find very rewarding. Not just because I can help others to grow as skaters, but also because it puts my brain in the right space for my own learning. I am not very good at just taking orders without understanding the reasoning. I have to go through the whole process to see why I do things. This is where coaching helps me to learn. I think more about every detail of every aspect of what I do - making me in return a more precise and more creative skater.
Congratulations on being named MVP this fall at the D1 Playoffs in Jacksonville, Florida! what was it like to receive such an honor? What were some of the memorable games/moments for you that weekend?
Hehe, it was quite shocking. My overall feeling was that the award was something way bigger than me and I kept asking myself, “How do they know? How do they know that I am the MVP? I was just a part of that conglomerate of great skaters who make up the whole machinery.” It was truly such a big honor. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with myself up there so I decided it was best to give a full body hug to the presenters. Luckily Rachel Rotten was there to guide me through the whole thing. I asked her if I should smile and she said, “That would be good”. So I tried. But my face just did kind of its’ own thing.
Fans around the world had a blast watching you skate with London Brawling in the WFTDA Championship Playoffs this past November, share with us a few of the experiences from that weekend.
We didn’t get what we came for, but at the same time, we got exactly what we came for. It was so hard. I realized that roller derby has become “a real sport” - and by that I mean a sport where all teams are more or less equal until they step out on the track and it’s on the track where everything is decided. No game between the top 4 teams had a differential bigger than 12 points. Champs was simply a huge realization of the level derby has come to. It’s no longer a question of “just getting better.” Now we have to get more fit, be smarter, have better routines, be more creative, we have to make all the right decisions at the right time and our mental game needs to be impeccable. In short, we have to be perfect. This feeling is scary and intimidating, but it is also very exciting that our sport has reached this level of competitiveness. I expect next year to get even denser with more teams in the top.
With so many games on an international scale, how do you prepare mentally and physically when crossing multiple time zones to compete?
We have a pretty good routine of bringing everything we need to have a full kitchen setup in the room and that helps a lot. We generally do a big grocery shopping the first day which means that we can avoid leaving the hotel room and still eat healthy. I think a lot of what feels uncomfortable and is mentally and physically stressing comes from not knowing where and what to eat, when to sleep and where to be. By bringing all the essentials we create a nest. A safe place. Where all our primordial needs are met but it’s also a place where we can spend time as a team and feel closer to each other, which inevitably ends up happening when 4 people share a room. I guess we could end up hating each other as well. But we don’t. We actually like each other. And let’s not forget the coffee. We bring and make our own coffee. That’s the real game changer.
What is your job outside of roller derby? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
I’m a motion designer/animator/video person. I’ve made a few films for promoting my league, but apart from that my job has nothing to do with derby. I have a half idea of making small animated strategy films though. Maybe this is just what we need to win the hydra.
How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life? How do you find a balance between your derby life and "real" life?
I don’t really. At least not the way I would like. Roller Derby is so intense and time consuming. There are a lot of things from my non roller derby life that I miss. I have a lot of interests and I like to do varied activities. This is less possible now. Roller derby took that away and replaced it with something extraordinary. I wish I could have both, but I don’t really think that is possible. At least not at this level.
What advice do you have for people who want to play roller derby?
Enjoy it. Train hard. Put on some muscle. Nail you basics. Watch tonnes of footage. Say goodbye to your life as you know it.
Do you have a special message to your fans?
If you are my fan, I am honored. Please answer my fan poll. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the whole European derby community which has been so supportive both socially and economically when it comes to supporting Brawling during tournament season. It means A LOT.
Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.