Above: The billboard was not meant for them but Derby United likes what it says about the new home they are building in Encanto for roller derby. Dec. 17, 2019
Roller derby is coming to Encanto thanks to the determination and passion of the women behind Derby United.
Nili Goldfarb loves to tell people what she does for fun.
“You tell someone you play roller derby and they go, ‘What?’ Yeah, I’m a roller derby player. ‘Wow, that’s incredible. Tell me more.’ And all of a sudden they feel like by being in your presence and hearing about what you do that they somehow are brought up through that shared experience with you,” Goldfarb said. “And so that’s one of the things I’m most excited about is to give all these folks who maybe don’t know a ton about what we’re doing some of that experience.”
Better known by her derby name of Isabelle Ringer, Goldfarb started with roller derby in San Diego back in 2005. The organization used to be called the San Diego Derby Dolls, but last year changed its name to Derby United to be more inclusive. The team plays bank-check and flat-track roller derby, and one thing has always been an issue.
“It is extremely difficult to find a place to play roller derby,” Goldfarb said. “If you play a sport like basketball or soccer, a lot of those facilities are publicly provided. The city has places for you to play. Roller derby does not. Roller derby needs a very large space and we have activities every night of the week and we need many hours every day. So having a dedicated facility is really what makes sense for this sport and no one’s going to provide it for us.”
Goldfarb became general manager early on, and wouldn’t accept that there was nowhere for her team to play. So she took matters into her own hands and decided they simply had to build their own outdoor facility. That facility will be on Federal Boulevard in Encanto.
Looking at the plans for the outdoor facility Goldfarb said, “These were were four parcels of land, just dirt lots. And what we’re doing is developing the place so we can have some roller derby tracks out here and have a full-time dedicated roller derby facility.”
Kelly Garner, who prefers her derby name of Kelican Bae, handles public relations for the organization.
“Now with us finding this property in this area we want to make sure that we are fulfilling the community’s needs as well,” Garner said. “And so that we’re able to bring in the community, give them somewhere to go, give them something fun to do, something fun to watch where they don’t have to go far, where they don’t have to use their cars to drive down to the ballpark or anywhere else. And then we’ve also been working with the city to try to get a bus stop in this area so that people can get here even easier.”
Derby United runs multiple programs for women and girls, banked track and flat, and a men’s team.
“They’re like wait, there’s a men’s team? Nobody knows that there’s a men’s derby league in San Diego,” Garner added.
But women are definitely the focus of Derby United and Goldfarb loves how it can empower them.
“Sometimes when you’re navigating the world you don’t feel that powerful. You don’t feel like you can make good on something like this because the folks keep telling you you really can’t,” Goldfarb said. “You know this is too difficult, it’s too long, it’s too hard, it’s too expensive, you should stop now and make better use of your time and you, your lovely feminine skills or whatever it is. That’s not what they say but it is what they mean.”
Goldfarb and Derby United challenge that every day by simply doing what they love.
“They see people especially women putting themselves out there in a physical, powerful way that is empowering just to be around,” Goldfarb said. “Our core values are athleticism, empowerment, inclusion, respect, and in the outside world where everything is a hot mess and a lot of those things don’t feel that valued, you come here and you see that as an ideal and something that is actually happening and getting lifted up and that feels awesome just to be around even if you’re not partaking.”
But this is a sport where people pay to play and pay to travel with a team across the country and even around the globe. The combination of member fees, gear expenses, and travel costs can run high.
“All that being said, I wouldn’t trade all of those credit card bills and all of that stuff from flying around for the last 15 years for anything,” Goldfarb said.
Garner agreed. She said she needs derby.
“You need to skate fast, you need to feel the wind in your hair, you need to get that aggression out because real life is hard,” Garner said.
If you want to see this passion in action then check back in February as Derby United plans to kick off a new era of roller derby in a facility they built themselves.