Building Up Speed - 405 Magazine

Building Up Speed

Twister City Roller Derby’s commitment to inclusivity.

Photos by Jake Durham

Twister City Roller Derby’s commitment to inclusivity.

A symphony of noises unfolds in the heart of Arctic Edge Arena. The distinctive clack of roller skate wheels resonates, setting the stage for the exhilarating spectacle about to unfold. Bodies collide in an intense whirlwind of scuffles and scrapes. Each fall, accompanied by the sound of skin and plastic meeting the unforgiving floor, is a testament to the skaters’ resilience. Amid the chaos, the air is alive with thunderous cheers of passionate fans, their voices echoing in support of their beloved players. The energy is infectious, the battles fierce and the camaraderie unbreakable.

Founded in 2006, Twister City Roller Derby is Oklahoma’s highest-ranked premier roller derby league. This league is the culmination of the talent, leadership and dedication displayed by the former leagues of the Oklahoma City Victory Dolls, the OKC Outlaws and the Oklahoma City Roller Derby. Over the years, these three leagues merged and rebranded as Twister City in 2023.

“Twister City Roller Derby strives to break barriers and dismantle stereotypes that so often govern and limit the confidence we have in ourselves and others,” said president Cheyenne Riggs. “We believe in the power of inclusion and respect to foster community and pursue our larger goals of collective empowerment and athletic excellence.”

The term “roller derby” originated in the 1920s to describe roller-skate races, but it evolved into a sport in which two teams of five skaters aim to score points by overtaking opposing team members. In the late 1940s, the original Roller Derby league gained popularity through televised broadcasts.

However, the emphasis shifted from the actual sport to theatrics over time. Internal conflicts and declining viewership eventually led the Roller Derby league to shut down in 1973. There were subsequent attempts in the ’80s and ’90s to revive variations of the sport, such as the show “RollerGames,” which featured a figure-eight-shaped banked track and stunts such as alligator pits. It was not until the early 2000s that modern women’s roller derby took off.

“There are five skaters on each team at a time,” Riggs said. “One skater” — the jammer — “wears a star, and is the only skater able to score points. The other four skaters on each team are blockers. The object of the game is for the jammer to lap opposing blockers as many times as possible, scoring a point for each blocker they lap. The blockers attempt to block the opposing team’s jammer while helping their own jammer get through. You never want to give up your space on the track to anyone! The game is played in increments called ‘jams.’ Contrary to popular belief, you can’t elbow, kick, trip or clothesline anyone. There is no limit to how hard you can hit someone, but you must hit them legally.”

Skaters are fiercely dedicated to the sport. Some have been actively competing for over a decade, although there is no shortage of up-and-comers. “Competitive derby is practically a part-time job,” Riggs said. “Our most serious members practice two to three days a week. Some of us are former high school and college athletes, and derby can operate as an outlet for these folks to continue competitive play into adulthood. Very few amateur sports outlets provide this level of competition for adults.”

Roller derby dishes action-packed gameplay, undeniable agility and skills, creative and fitting names for players and referees, crowd engagement and inclusivity, as the sport represents and supports members of the LGBTQ+ community. “We have carved [out] a space for athletes, many of whom don’t fit the traditional athletic mold, and transformed that space into a place of inclusivity, support, respect and empowerment,” Riggs said.

Twister City Roller Derby’s next event is Aug. 5 at the Arctic Edge Arena in Edmond. Advance tickets are available online for $15 and at the door for $20. For more information about the team or to try out, visit