Tuesday, July 29, 2014

From Freshmeat to Team Mate: Getting My Gear!

Last post, I mentioned that I would tell you all about picking out my own gear.  In the process of drafting, I realized that this is probably going to have to be broken into several posts.  There's just too many things to talk about! Today, we'll start with picking out the required safety gear.

Since our team's in Western Massachusetts, there are only a couple of options for places that you can go and actually try on Derby gear before purchasing.  There's the Pro Shop at Ron A Roll Skating Center in Vernon, CT, though they only have a small selection of Derby gear in stock.  You can pick up hockey helmets at most sporting goods stores like Dicks or Modells, and some skateboard shops like Theory Skateboarding carry a small variety of knee and elbow pads that can be used for Derby. For most of us in Southern New England, though, the best place to go and get gear is definitely at Bruised Boutique in NH.

An interior shot of the Bruised Boutique store in NH. 
Bruised Boutique is the world's largest Derby store and is the only one is the area that is devoted to just Derby gear and accessories.  It's almost a rite of passage for Derby skaters in our area to go with a veteran team mate to pick out their first set of gear. I was lucky enough that within the first six weeks of my Freshmeat period, my awesome coworker who you know as Duck N. Shover (who writes our "Officials' Review" posts) and his lovely wife, Astra Knot, who also happens to be our Team's 2014 Chairperson were willing to take me to Bruised to get my gear.

A few days before we actually drove up there, I spent some time checking out their online store trying to make a list of things I desperately needed and trying to figure out exactly how much I was willing to spend.  I quizzed other POD skaters to see what they loved about their gear and what items they would swap out if they could.  I knew, no matter what, that I had to buy at least the essentials: A helmet, elbow pads, wristguards, knee pads, a mouthguard, and the ultimate - SKATES! The question was, should I buy cheaper "freshmeat" versions of the gear, or should I invest now in better equipment?

As a Derby skater, I want to have fun, of course, but I'm also really concerned with being safe.  It was very important to me that I get a decent helmet to protect my head, especially since I knew I'd still be falling a lot. Derby skaters are starting to be very cognizant of the importance that Derby helmets be rated for multiple impacts since we do fall and protecting the head is a number one priority when playing.  In fact, many players are actually switching over to hockey helmets which are designedto be even safer, but for my first helmet, I wanted one that would be safe and also look pretty. I'm not afraid to admit it.  I went with a Triple 8 helmet in purple since that's our team color.  The foam padding on the inside is also removable for washing which is a great feature to help keep it from getting stinky!

Next, I focused on knee pads.  Knowing that I was still falling a LOT in practice, I wanted to get really good knee pads.  This was a place that I was happy to spend a little extra money to get better equipment.  Now, Derby knee pads all pretty thick and sturdy, but as I mentioned before, they also have a hard shell on the front and this feature can vary from pad to pad.  When I was using the Freshmeat gear, I had been using a pair of 187 knee pads, which I liked a lot.  I knew I wanted to stick with that brand, but they make different kinds, so I researched how they differed.  I decided to go with their most expensive type - the 187 Pro Derby Knee Pads - because they have removable, replaceable shells on the front.  This set is about ten dollars more than the regular ones, but when you fall several times really hard on your knee pads and finally crack one of the shells, rather than having to replace the whole set of knee pads, you can just buy the replacement shells for the front. It can save some decent money in the long run.

For elbow pads and wristguards, I was less concerned with getting top of the line gear.  Personally, I feel
like while you absolutely need these items, you should be way more concerned with your knee pads since you do the hardest falling onto those.  I could spend a little less here.  Mostly it was about fit and comfort.  I tried on a couple of brands for the elbow pads and found that some of them had different shapes for the hard shells on the elbow.  I really liked the flatter shape of the Triple 8 pads, as opposed to some of the ones that felt more like cups, and so went with those.  In the wristguards, there are several different styles, as well.  Some are one solid piece that slides over the wrist and then has a strap to hold it in
place.  The ones I chose open flat so that you can place your wrist into it then tighten the three different straps (one on your hand, one on the small of your wrist, and one on the beginning of your forearm) to hold it in place.  I felt like I had more control in adjusting the tightness in these three different spots to get the most safety and comfort out of the guards. Since these Triple 8 ones were some of the cheapest in the store, I'm already noticing wear and tear on them. I may have to get replacements soon, but I think I'm going to stick with the same kind when I do.

Next time, I want to finish up with safety gear and tell you about getting my very own skates!

Until then...
Nikki Tesla #134 

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