Rice Rice Baby Rocks Roller Derby
Rolling Through Life on Eight Wheels
Roller skating and I have much in common — we’re unique, we’re fun, and when obstacles get in the way, we just roll with it!
What I learned to do on eight wheels as a little girl empowered me as a woman.
I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I can, however, roller skate really, really well. Unlike piano lessons, when I tried roller skating I enjoyed every bit of it. Since I was around 7 years old, I spent a lot of time at the skating rink in Stockton, California. And my parents spent a lot for lessons, skates, dresses and travel.
At competitions my stomach was a jumble of butterflies and barf inside.
In the beginning, I was timid and shy, and I wasn’t yet a very strong or confident skater. But, during ‘freestyle’ segments, I’d bravely skate solo on the floor, while everyone watched my every move, heaving a disappointing oooohhhhh when I fell on my ass. And I did. At least once every competition.
I and my parents were so happy and proud the day I got my 1st Place skating trophy. It so happens to be my one and only! I chuckle because there were only 2 other girls in my age category and I guess I sucked the least!
Our city skate club represented at the annual national Gold Skate Classic Invitational in Bakersfield, California. This was an ‘Ice Capades on wheels’ and the competing clubs would perform mini-musicals. (See top picture of this feature.) We won 1st place for our performance of “Phantom of the Opera” circa ‘90-‘91.
Here on the right side, the photo shows me with two skating buddies. We always skated together. Once we performed as a trio for a school talent show. We lip-synced to En Vogue’s ‘Hold On.’ I was the shorty, so I played the lead singer up front. It was epic!
Soon after this time, I retired from artistic roller skating. It became a fond childhood past-time as I journeyed through high school, college, a wedding, and motherhood.
Then we moved to Austin, Texas. There, I told my friend Barbara about my good ol’ skate days.
Quickly after that, I found myself lacing on someone else’s beat-up, funk-laden skates and going to an Austin, Texas Adult Skate Hip Hop night. There, I showcased some fancy footwork and enjoyed skating for fun the rest of the evening.
Well, it so happened that Barbara had another friend who played roller derby and before I knew it I was trying out in a dirty warehouse filled with a gigantic, oval, banked track and a bunch of girls with helmets and padding on every major body joint.
No trying hard at tryouts
The ‘tryout’ was simple enough. My feet automatically skated. I bobbed and weaved through cones, skated on one foot, stopped. When I skated backwards everyone watching went “oohhhhhh” and dropped their jaws.
The roller girls were super impressed and excited. I guess I did good because I was in!
Within my first few weeks of derby training, the bruises were my initiation. And my childhood hobby had propelled me to the top of the ‘fresh meat’ rollergirl class, and into my first-choice team, the Cherry Bombs!
I never felt this ‘cool’ in my life. I went from graceful, spinning gazelle to body-thrashing, speed-jamming hot mama.
I had become part of something really awesome. So, I had to pick a roller girl name as equally awesome. As the only Pinay and only Asian in the league at the time, I knew I had to represent with Rice Rice Baby (beating out 2nd choice Manila Thrilla). And for my jersey number, I chose an asian restaurant take-out menu pun—Combo No. 4. Pretty darn funny I thought.
My mom must have shed a tear when I emailed her my derby girl pictures.
For my first roller derby bout, I was once again filled with butterflies and barf. Now there were thousands more people watching. And the expectation to do well for my team had my nerves in knots. But this time, I wasn’t flying solo. And falling on my ass could be a good thing.
This was a crowd to be entertained. And there was no time to be shy. At my first bout opening, I knew it was my derby girl duty to give ‘em what they wanted. So when my name was announced, rookie that I was, I couldn’t help but show off some graceful, classic, artistic skater moves…
And this time round, it was my time to be fierce and fearless. This was the birth of Rice Rice Baby!
Whenever I was up as the point-scoring jammer, Edwin, my very loud Puerto Rican, New Yorker, ex-roommate would rouse up one side of the convention center. He’d energize and get the crowds to chant RICE-RICE-BAY-BEE—clap, clap-clap, clap, clap!
Literally thousands of people, on the edge of their seats, cheered me on as I ferociously zip-zoom-bumped-and-lept my way through a herd of wild roller derby women.
It was the closest thing to being a rock star I’ve ever experienced. People wanted my autograph, took pictures with me, and other roller girls yelled out, ’Hey Rice! You Kick Ass!’
This never happened when I was a girl in a frilly, sequined dress.
Never in a million years did the little roller skating girl imagine she would become a strong, roller derby chick. Who would’ve thought that the shy little Asian girl would grow up and knock over some of the heaviest girls in the league? Or that bombarding bodies on skates would put me in the best shape of my life?
As a kid, I never expected that my skating lessons would unleash a powerful, unstoppable woman! But it happened. And it was wonderful.
Winning Offensive Rookie of the Year was like winning the 1st Place trophy when I was 11, all over again. I was filled with the same giddiness and excitement. I worked hard for it and I knew I deserved it.
I absolutely loved playing roller derby. It was so damn fun.
Back down to earth. Back to my roots.
These days, my pudgy feet barely fit in my old skates. I gave the wheels of one boot to my husband and the other set to my kids for a skateboard.
Every single time I play Lego Indiana Jones on Playstation with my kids, I remind them that the music for my skater girl winning routine was a soundtrack from the Indiana Jones’ movie series.
The uniform from my first year of derby is folded away neatly in a storage box. The tank top for my second year uniform is worn by my 12-year-old.
Gashes and scrapes are now dimming scars gotten from my adventurous roller days.
I get a little melancholy thinking about my time playing derby getting cut short when my dad passed away. And then I got pregnant and had a baby. Then I got pregnant again. And a bunch of other stuff happened and it was just my time to roll out.
Now I’m back in my hometown in California. A Walgreens now stands in the place where Hammer Skate rink was. And people tell me all the time about a local roller derby team here.
But it’s not the same. There’s nothing like TXRD, the league I skated for in Austin, TX.
When my 5th baby is a little older, I might consider watching a local bout. Or maybe I’ll try out.
Just the mere thought of my wheels back on a track makes my heart beat a little faster.