High speed, harsh tackles and cocky player names. It started in the US, but is now a growing sport in the world, and not least in Sweden and Luleå. Of course, we are talking about roller derby, or more precisely, Luleå Roller Derby.

Close-up image of a player in the team Luleå Roller Derby

Roller derby is usually described as a mix between hockey and chess. A full contact sport which requires a fighting spirit, determination and a lot of strategy to become a great roller derby player.

“Roller derby is a crazy fun sport where you get to meet a lot of great people. You get to take your place, be aggressive and work hard,” says Tess Pettersson, the team captain of Luleå Roller Derby.

Tessmanian D, Ruby Disaster, Terminator. A lot of players use a derby name.

“Some choose to have a player name; others choose not to. It’s a fun thing that can help to play the role with the right aggressiveness.”

The Luleå Roller Derby Association has been around since 2010. Currently, there are 60 members (all are not active players) and the team plays in the highest league. The elite series consists of six teams from Malmö to Luleå. Because the sport is still relatively new in Sweden cooperation is important.

“We had to create everything ourselves, and we still do. Referees, locations, match arrangements, sponsors, training sessions and so on. It’s really tough, but at the same time a lot of fun and we have a lot of influence".

Roller derby has grown rapidly in Sweden in recent years. The Animal Rights Movement and the skate and snowboarding culture boosted each other in the 1990s, perhaps there is a similar connection between feminism and roller derby.

“Maybe that’s true. Many of the teams are politically active, even though we are a non-political association but all the players are for feminism, and are anti-racist.”

Tess Pettersson adds:

“Roller derby is an inclusive sport. Everyone can play, regardless of body shape, and there is no upper age limit. Everyone is welcome.”

This year roller derby celebrates 80 years. Last season Luleå Roller Derby had to qualify for the elite division, and made it.

“The objective for the season is to stay and progress in the elite division.”

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Text: Amanda Karlsson
Photo: Patrik Öhman