Thursday, August 6, 2009

Skate Surface Battle Royale

Roller derby is all about options. You can choose your skates, your outfit, your name, your number, and even the floor you skate on.

4 common skating surfaces are wood, concrete, skate court, and masonite. All have their advantages and disadvantages.

Wood comes from trees. Isn't that nice? Trees that are cut into boards and put into nice, neat rows and coated in this material that causes children to fall down for no reason and skate the complete wrong direction straight at you at skating rinks. Different colored lights and a disco ball or two light the way. Wood is super grippy and pretty loud and if it's not taken care of makes you feel like you're skating in the bowels of a boat out at sea because of all the waves and weird discoloration that you know came from some kid peeing on it. Or beer. Whatever. I like to pretend I'm a pirate pretty much every chance I get, so this is a fun time for me. Wood is good, but usually can only be found IN skating rinks, and skating there isn't so great. There's not a lot of room for fans to sit or for the smell of your farts and/or swampy pads to dissipate.

Concrete. Yikes, concrete. It can be good when it's clean, but brutal when it's dirty. Some leagues skate on polished, some on outdoor hockey rinks, and every concrete floor is different. Some are so polished that they require traction to be mopped on to keep you from sliding into the oblivion that is the naughty bits of some poor lady in the suicide seating. Some are so bumpy you need outdoor wheels to survive. Polished concrete is fun because you slide forrrrrrrrrrrreverrrrrrrrr and it allows you to play Derby Bowling, which is a game I just made up. One thing concrete is not is forgiving. If you fall, you will feel it, much like the fatty part of my thumb felt it last night as I slapped down with all my weigh on it. Awesome.

Skate court is pretty cool stuff. It's grippy and requires no maintenance that I've heard of, and you don't slide on it when you fall. The bad side is you have to put it together like puzzle pieces during bout setup because you probably won't be able to just leave it down all the time. But no matter, the surface feels so good it makes up for the time it takes to put it together. Also, it comes in pretty colors so you can pretend you're running around your kindergarten classroom. Paste and construction paper optional.

But my absolute favorite skating surface is masonite. Oh man, I have a tiny girl boner just thinking about it. It's grippy AND slick at the same time. Figure that one out. Basically you can skate on it like a dream in whatever wheels you want, but then if you fall you sliiiiide just like on concrete. It's fantastic. The downside is you have to actually tape it together so it won't just slide apart... which it will do anyway, especially during a doubleheader. And it's heavy as... a very heavy thing that I can't think of since I've not actually tried to pick up a piece of masonite. No matter, just know that storage and transport is an issue with this one.

I'm sure there are probably other types of skateable floors out there that I haven't heard about. Do let me and our loyal readers know what these are in the comments section! I'm all for broadening our horizons via brief messages on teh intarweb.


  1. Just as a little side note: Sport Court and Skate Court are different brands of flooring with different characteristics. The Skate Court I've been on has little holes in it that make falling feel like making sweet love to a cheese grater. Even Sport Court has a couple different varieties, and how fast/slow/grippy/slick they are depends on the type, the condition, and the underlayment. Our Sport Court, which was bought used and is set up over particle board for every bout (our venue has astroturf), is slick and kinda slow. Others vary greatly.

    Another surface worth mentioning? Asphalt. It isn't just for parking lots; outdoor hockey rinks use it as well, and I've even seen it at an indoor rink. Asphalt's really not slippery, but it hurts like hell to fall on it, and it is not the place to break out those brand-new $100 wheels. If you're going to skate on asphalt, you're best off with outdoor or hybrid wheels; if you don't have any of those, then use old wheels or cheapies.

  2. Thank you DayGlo! I haven't skated on Sport Court so I didn't know what the real difference was.

  3. Check out more fun with Skate Court: Ohio Roller Girls (OHRG) got theirs from 2 different color floor models- one grey, one q-bert puke multi color tiles. During the 2007 Heartland Havoc tournament, we had spies in the stands counting the number of tiles in each different color, trying to figure out what we could do with it. heres the result:

    The blue oval is the exact dimensions of center track on the WFTDA regulation track (well, its off by a few inches but close enough).


  4. I have skated on that very masonite track pictured, and I love it. Like, want to have babies with it(or at least go out behind the bleachers and get up to some mega-naughtiness...) It is everything I ever wanted in a floor, and I am sad beyond words that everyone doesn't have one. It works well for DCRD(the pictured league) because their venue actually has a slightly lower area that they can settle it into. The only problem is, as you noted, that it does periodically slide apart so there are gaps in the masonite- although they got better at stopping those this year vs. last year, so maybe they'll work out a solution.
    OHRG's skate court is excellent too- I just skated on it at the Ohio State Fair. But masonite is my one true track love.

  5. The school gym we are allowed to rent is concrete with some kind of rubber coating on it. It sucks...but is good for the legs. There is virtually no roll out, stop pumping, stop moving, give a whip, stop moving, try to slide, land on your face. So...we put old hockey socks over our pads and we can slide, and we use it for endurance skating, because you can never stop pushing.

  6. Jess, if you want to try SkateCourt, try Foster's Family Fun Center in Harrisburg, IL - It really is very much like removing your face with a cheesegrater the first time you fall, especially if you practice on polished concrete the other 99% of the time you practice! The knees stop so quickly that the top half does not stay in place, though the small children and lack of cleaning may be part of what makes it so sticky. (In my experience, small children do tend to be somewhat sticky themselves.)

    If you want to try SportCourt of the squishy variety, check out Kingsway Skateland in Paducah, Ky. It's bumpy and squishy and just all around weird to skate on.

    And Asphalt as a skating surface is how I successfully (albeit temporarily) managed to burn the print right off of my thumb as I skidded across the surface. (And bruised my poor right boob in a way that still makes me ache.)

    If you wanna try the weirdest skate surface ever, check out our floor. (The Southern Illinois Roller Girls - we practice at the Williamson County Pavilion in Marion, IL) Some of the girls from Paducah call it the magic floor, cause there are spots so slick that crossovers are impossible without falling and spots so grippy that your skates stop without the rest of you. These spots seem to move about on their own and no amount of cursing or wheel washing really fixes them - we have all just had to learn to adjust very quickly when the floor takes on a personality. Hopefully it has made us better skaters instead of just weirder ones!

    Loved the post, and love the idea of bowling with roller girls. (In fact, we intend to buy some inflatable pins and do just that at intermission some time!)
    Dread Pirate Robyn

  7. Does anyone know of any leagues that rent their SkateCourt out? Or of any rental companies that rent SkateCourt?

    Please email me at PLEALOS@RIVERCENTRE.ORG



  8. I know it was an old comment, but it's small world kind of shit that Lizard~Robyn skates with SIRG!! I have a friend/former co-worker that does, a jammer name of Britt. We did the whole SIU student thing together. I'm just getting into a groove with my local league now that I've moved to upstate NY. We have wooden flat track with some sort of opaque coating overlay. Never experienced that floor in Marion.. might have to journey over there the next trip back to the old Alma mater. ;)
    ~~ La Muerte Verde

  9. Thanks for sharing as it is an excellent post would love to read your future post
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