Featured Skater: Easy Break Oven

Easy Break Oven began skating with Calgary Roller Derby Association just little over a five years ago and has come a long way since her rookie year! Recognized as Tournament MVP at the 2016 D1 Playoffs in Lansing, MI (USA), Easy Break Oven has continued to inspire skaters of all levels and ages, including her coaching role with local junior roller derby skaters. Learn more about Easy Break Oven and what she has planned for the 2017 season ahead!

Name: Easy Break Oven

Number: 302

League: Calgary Roller Derby Association

Team(s): CRDA All Stars, Team Alberta, and the Cut Throat Car Hops (CRDA intraleague team)

Year you started roller derby: 2011

Easy Break Oven - WFTDA Featured Skater
Photo by Preflash Gordon

How did you get involved with roller derby?
I happened across ads for games when I was living in Edmonton back in 2010, and started going as a spectator pretty frequently. I was in a new relationship with another trans woman and it was our date night thing to do. It didn’t take long to decide I wanted to try — it took a bit longer to work up the courage to ask the local leagues if I could join. I actually got my freshmeat gear four months before I finally got the guts to email the leagues and ask.

What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
Gym class was a nightmare, so my sports background involves mostly solo pursuits: inline skating, mountain biking, snowboarding, and scuba diving. In college I used rollerblades as a primary form of transportation, which was great for situational awareness and footwork.

Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
I picked up a set up freshmeat gear in December of 2010 and started going to the local roller rink in Edmonton. As it happened, some of the freshmeat skaters from E-Ville and Oil City (Edmonton’s two leagues at the time) also hung out there and they started showing me what they were working on. I didn’t actually apply to the leagues until April because I was so worried about whether I would be accepted, but I was completely reassured by their response. They simply wrote, “Practice is next Thursday, see you there!” Between my previous rollerblading experience and what the other freshmeat had already taught me, I advanced to the All Stars with Oil City Roller Derby (then called Oil City Derby Girls) pretty quickly.

What is your skate gear of choice?
Right now I’m riding Bonts equipped with Chicks in Bowls universal grind plates, Bones Reds bearings, and Juice Java 88A wheels. I almost never change my wheels, so I use them on everything! For protection, I use Pro Designed Inc. elbow pads, an S1 Lifer Helmet, Triple 8 kneepads, and Triple 8 “Hired Hands” wrist guards. I like the full knuckle protection of the Hired Hands as I do a fair bit of park skating and some our local parks have skin-shredding concrete.

Do you have a pre-game ritual?
I used to do unique warpaint for every bout, but now with so much travel and the variation in gearing-up spaces, I usually just crank a few select tunes to get amped up.

Easy Break Oven - WFTDA Featured Skater
Photo by Dave Wood Photography

Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
I have “with fury against ignorance” tattooed on my left forearm. It’s a quote from the father of Casper, the #DoItFor57 junior skater our community lost a couple of years ago. His dad described Casper as “an advocate with fury against ignorance” in a newspaper interview, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

I also really enjoy the quote by Aristotle Onassis: “We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.”

Do you have a theme song?
I’m not sure if they qualify as “theme songs” but my pre-game amp-up songs right now are both from the Sucker Punch movie soundtrack. The soundtrack’s version of Björk’s “Army of Me” has her cutting loose with a barrage of screaming that segues into a hard-driving guitar section that’s impossible to sit still to. The other one is “The Crablouse” by Lords of Acid, which I love for its beat and hilarious NSFW lyrics. Get tested folks!

What is your position of choice?
I’m primarily a jammer but I’ve been working on my blocking skills a lot lately. It’s becoming more and more important to be able to be a strong triple-threat on the track. Still, I love jamming for its flow. Flexing your whole body to shed impacts, distract, and roll around opponents — but then also delivering a hammer when you need to.

How would you describe your derby playing style? Do you have a signature move?
I’m definitely known for my jumps; most of the time it’s more about reading the pack and recognizing when the apex is unguarded than raw jumping ability though. I try all sorts of variations in practice that I have yet to pull off in a game — like 360s, waltz jumps, and a backward-entry one-footed style that I’ve been working on.

Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
I’ve been blessed with far too many to count, but they would have to include the 40+ point final jam with Oil City when we thought we had won, but ultimately lost by one point after they counted the earned points from the jammer in the penalty box. I nearly got crushed by hugs! The entire 2016 WFTDA D2 Playoffs and Championships run was amazing. And our game against the Charm City Roller Girls when the score was tied with about 5 minutes remaining was fantastic. They were just excellent sports and it felt like everyone was in a great mood despite the extremely high tension.

Easy Break Oven - WFTDA Featured Skater
Photo by Brangwyn Jones

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
All the things I think of are a consequence of the whole team playing well together. Team Alberta’s as-yet-undefeated streak, and CRDA’s 2016 WFTDA D2 Playoffs, where the whole team played better than I think we ever have.

Off the track?
I’d say working with junior derby skaters, although most of that is also on track.

What has roller derby taught you about pushing your limits, either physically or mentally?
That the brain gives up long before the body, and that the fear of having lost an opportunity for your team is a great motivator. During the 40 point final jam when I played with OCDG, every scoring pass I looked at the clock and score, and the math said if I just didn’t slow down at all, we could win this. As long as the chance was there, I felt like I just had to keep pushing even as my legs were on fire from lactic acid. The jam went the full two minutes and I ended the final seconds with an apex jump on legs I couldn’t even feel.

What can you share about your coaching and other work with your local junior roller derby team?
Although it has it’s own stressful elements, like trying to keep the drills interesting and keeping everyone on track, the smiles and enthusiasm the kids bring is a great antidote to the rest of life’s frustrations. It’s very rewarding and in a perfect world I’d have more time to be able to commit to it.

You were named MVP at the 2016 D1 Playoffs in Lansing, Michigan (USA). What was it liked to be honored with such special recognition at a tournament of that caliber?
I was floored! Even as my teammates were looking at me as the announcer was reading out the game stats, all I could think was, “That’s not me. I didn’t do that.” So of course I totally bawled when they read my name. During the walk over, so many of the opponents that we had just played were calling out in support, and that means more to me that the award itself in some ways. The recognition of peers who’ve similarly put themselves on the line is fantastic feeling.

Easy Break Oven - WFTDA Featured Skater
Photo by Danforth Johnson

Who are your derby heroes?
Suzy Hotrod, Demanda Riot, Lady Trample (doing double duty as ramp hero), and Fifi Nomenon.

What have of the toughest losses of your career taught you?
I think losses are as important as the victories, in a lot of ways. A tough loss has a way of reminding you to keep this sport in perspective; derby is something we do commit a huge amount of effort to, but it’s also something that’s entirely optional and of our own creation. Learning to recover and refocus is also a very useful skill for derby and the rest of life.

Have you held any leadership positions in your league? How have those positively impacted your personal roller derby career?
I have held co-captain positions for Team Alberta and the CRDA All Stars, I’ve been head of CRDA’s training committee, and I was a trainer for OCDG’s fresh meat back in the day. Being in a captain’s role gives you a peek behind the curtain at all the issues they deal with that hopefully never have to concern the rest of the team. Being a trainer has definitely helped my own skating, as trying to break down rules, skills, and techniques to teach others really helps solidify your own understanding.

What is your job outside of roller derby? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
I’m an electronics technologist for a large international oil and gas services company. Besides paying the bills and allowing me to travel for derby, it’s occasionally had me posted in other cities, and I always bring my skates. I’m actually in Denver for work as I write this, and am dropping in with the local leagues here for practices. It’s also an extremely diverse company; I’d estimate about 5 different language are spoken daily in my facility — English, Mandarin, Tagalog, Spanish, Russian, and probably others. Working with people that bring such a diversity of experiences is a treat, and our common technical backgrounds provide a framework that helps bypass the language barriers. It’s sometime easier to talk about circuit elements and failure modes than about everyday life.

How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life? How do you find a balance between your derby life and “real” life?
I have practically no derby versus “real life” balance. A classic example would be the time when I was chatting with someone on a dating app. Totally failed at asking her out for coffee, but succeeded in getting her to register for the fresh meat program! *face palm* My life since starting derby has been a sea of changes, and I suspect those who knew me before wouldn’t even recognize me today.

Easy Break Oven - WFTDA Featured Skater
Photo by Brenda Hansen

What advice do you have for people who want to play roller derby?
Do it — you owe it to yourself. To borrow a quote from one of the Alberta juniors: “Roller derby is hard when you start, and … uh … it stays hard but you kinda get used to it.”

As a transgender skater and equal rights advocate, what do you think the inclusive spirit of roller derby has to share with the greater world and sporting community?
I frequently do presentations as part of my work with the Trans Equality Society of Alberta, and I use roller derby as a community and the WFTDA as an organization to help provide a model of inclusion and an example of commitment to continuously improving. Derby provides real proof that fears about every aspect of trans and non-binary inclusion are totally unfounded. WFTDA announcer Double H’s interview with the Smacktivist, in which she apologized for insensitivity around pronoun usage, is an excellent example of how an organization can commit to improvement: acknowledge, apologize, commit to doing better next time. Right now, a bill to protect trans rights across Canada (Bill C-16 for you CPAC buffs) is facing pushback in our Senate from those who say that being asked to use a person’s pronouns infringes on free speech rights. This same bill has been intentionally stalled to death three times over seven years while the rest of the world has moved on, and I am proud to hold up derby as proof that the sky won’t fall if we just allow everyone to be themselves.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
I love you. You inspire me. Please come say, “Hi,” if you see me at events or at Rollercon! <3

Do you have any game footage or other videos that you would like to share with your feature?
Someone made a gif of me getting totally blown up by Charlottseville in the Lansing playoffs game, which I love:

I was the subject of a trans issues and roller derby short documentary film by Nootka St. Films in early 2016 (I believe the WFTDA may have shared it via Facebook) and I loved working with the guys from Nootka St. and they can always use more props!