Q&A: Cayla O’Lague, Grays Harbor Roller Derby

Cayla O’Lague is an organizer for Grays Harbor Roller Derby, a league getting up and running on the Harbor. When she’s not styling hair or doing mani/pedis at Salon 601 in Aberdeen, she takes to the flat track as “The Pain Stylist,” an anchor of the fledgling roller derby team. The 25-year-old Hoquiam native married her high school sweetheart, Ben, and they have two children: Allie, 4, and Korben, 1. Grays Harbor Roller Derby is online at www.ghderby.com and www.facebook.com/GHRollerDerby.

Is roller derby like it used to be on TV? Or that movie, “Whip It”?

Honestly, I haven’t seen much roller derby on TV. I’ve seen a tiny snippit of “Whip It” and other Hollywood-made movies and I do know that it’s nothing like what I have seen on TV. They make roller derby look so brutal and mean and rough when it’s not really like that at all. Don’t get me wrong, it is a hardcore sport and some of the falls and bruises we get may look brutal, but it’s not bad at all.

How does the game work?

Game? You mean bout? We don’t call them games they are bouts. This is the question we get asked MOST! And everyone kind of has their own explanation. It’s kind of hard to make it short and sweet yet sound intriguing, but I’ll try. A bout has five players from each team on the flat track — four blockers and a jammer (the one with a star on her helmet). The jammers must make it through the pack of blockers to earn points, and the blockers are trying to help their jammers through the pack while blocking the other team’s jammer. They’re also trying not to get hit by the other team’s blockers and stay inside the track. If the jammers get through, they get points, catch back up to the pack and do it all over again until the lead jammer calls off the jam. Lots of penalties, whistles blown, falling, pushing pulling and whipping going on — oh, and the usual yelling.

Isn’t it a pretty rough sport?

Is roller derby rough? Hm, to me not so much, honestly. It can look rough to spectators, though. But don’t let that scare anyone who wants to try. Anything in life can be rough if you think about it — riding a bike, driving a car. But the fun outweighs the roughness by far! And our coaches are awesome at teaching us the correct ways to fall and get up and move around fallen people, it’s actually pretty safe! Plus, we wear all the padding and protection needed — helmets, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads. With the pads I have, I literally can’t feel when I fall. It’s like falling onto my pillowtop bed.

When you started playing derby, what did you expect it to be like? How long did those expectations last?

When I started I was seven months pregnant and no, I wasn’t skating. I would go and sit and watch practice so I semi knew what to expect when I put on my skates for the first time. I was a little worried; I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to do half, if not all the stuff the girls were doing, but when I put my skates on a month after my son was born I was falling and skating and stopping just like they were. Everyone was so willing to help me when I couldn’t get a stop or fall that I caught up in no time.

Were you all big-time skaters before roller derby?

I would totally say that I was a big time skater when I was 12! I skated from before I can even remember at the Harborena, and until I was about 14 every skate session they had I was there religiously. I even saved enough money from birthdays and holidays to purchase my very own Carreras (skates) at age 11. Before I started derby last August I hadn’t skated in probably five years, but once I put my skates back on it was like riding a bike. Within 20-30 minutes I felt like the pro I was when I was 12. Lots of our skaters were totally new to it though.

Why don’t you play on roller blades?

It would be very hard to do the stops that we do and falls with the stoppers in the back of the roller blade versus the front of our quads like we have. Quads are really stable, too. Blades might make it easier though in bouts to squeeze by players and stay in the track and may create less falling because when wearing quads sometimes your wheels lock with others wheels and BAM you’re flat on your face. Referees do get to wear blades if they like them.

What is the derby group up to over the summer?

Well summer is almost over for us. So far we have just tried to fundraise and recruit new girls and officials. We need them VERY badly! We’ve got some fun and exciting upcoming events going on soon. We were at the Grays Harbor County Fair doing a dunk tank and having a booth with our merchandise and info on all things derby — including real, live derby girls to answer questions. We applied to be in the Loggers Play Day parade again this year as well (we were in last year and got some good recruits), and Aug. 29 we will be having another free skating session for any females over 18 to come try it out. They can watch, try on skates and pads, and just have fun and see what we are about. We try to put on our skates as much as we can while we aren’t practicing this summer. We love to go to the rink on a Friday night and skate around the millions of teens.

If you don’t want to be knocked around, what is there to do?

We always need help! There are many positions that don’t get a beating. We really need skating officials, a.k.a refs. We can teach them how to skate and all the rules and what you need to know to help us out. We also need positions filled for people who can’t skate like timekeepers, scorekeepers, and penalty box timekeepers. There’s a lot of writing in derby bouts, actually. So if you would like to help in any way, get a hold of us.

Can people just jump in and give it a try?

We totally encourage anyone to just come watch us at first and then try skate and pads next. We know roller derby isn’t for everyone but we are hoping you try it out once and find out for yourself. Being on skates at first can be scary but the more you do it the easier it is. We are all great at helping and showing and teaching you how to do everything in derby, it’s how we all began. Our coaches are pretty awesome too; Coach Mike White practically lives on his skates! He’s a great coach. Kristof Aho is our semi-off skate coach but he’s sure trying to learn, it’s funny.

Is there anything for men to do?

Men. Oh how the men in our lives would help haha. Most of our’s are at home with the kids while mommy’s playing. We always need help with officials and timekeepers. Men are welcome by all means we can always find a job for them.