roller derby hong kong

YOURS TRULY COMES TO Hong Kong frequently (2-3 times per annum) but each time the country looks a bit different, and not just in a metaphorical sense… HK is literally a country rising up out of the ocean as they re-claim land out of the sea. As I fang along in the taxi, hoping that I have given them the correct translation of the address for the only bricks and mortar roller derby store in South East Asia, I couldn’t think of a greater segue to the analogy for the entity that is Hong Kong Roller Derby (HKRD). They are here, they are queer and they are re-claiming space in a land where exercise outside seems to be relegated to a more esoteric group.

And the world of Quad skating is listening.

Even while I was there for the visit, a quad skate company from Australia was having a skate bowl meeting with members of the HKRD.

Skate companies, derby and quad-skate famous people have liaised with the team, and offers of training and support have come. World Skate (formerly FIRS) has offered support, networking and extended offers of training- even sponsorship. Funnily enough (and surprisingly) the least communicative has been WFTDA, who have only provided perfunctory replies when the new league reached out to them. 

Despite this radio silence from an association whose mission statement is about a collective voice from leagues around the world, this has not stopped the momentum from growing, not unlike the sweat patches in my armpits.

I find the store nestled between a poodle café and a French restaurant; as soon as I walk in I know I am in a special place, not just an oasis from the 87% humidity and 40°C temperatures. I know that I have stumbled into an extraordinary space, one that is pushing boundaries and questioning cultural norms, all by doing something that they love and doing it to the best of their ability.

“We get organized, we ask no favours,” says Snooky (Karl Luna to the Derby world, President of HKRD and co-founder of Madame Quad).

Karl’s philosophy on recruitment is very sage, saying that “Rollerskating is a hobby, I used to think that hobbies of any kind were weird – that was until I found one I liked. Then it becomes an ingrained part of your life, if you allow people the chance to try this (quad skating) you can see when it becomes part of them and engagement is never a problem after that.”

Despite the lack of support from one of the major associations in quad skating, there is a round-robin bout that is organized every 3-6 months. This has developed organically between teams from “Pan Asia,” these teams from: Shanghai, Beijing, South Korea, Japan, Bangkok, The UAE, and most recently, Bali in Indonesia. Schedules are booked, flights organized, accommodation sorted, with nothing more technical than a mother of a messaging thread.

Recently leagues from Europe have been snuffling about the trouble getting visas to come to US for a game – “Try and having a Hong Kong passport and trying to play a game in Japan (where all the venues are military landspace)– not going to happen.” Karl laughs as if it is the most quotidian of occurrences.

Despite these trials and tribulations, these people are just getting sh*t done, they are blazing a quad-shaped mark in a country that frowns on sports where there is a high potential of pain and injury … Karl does try and play it all down suggesting that it is not all altruistic – creating this movement, opening this store in Hong Kong is going to give me longevity in my skating career – “I want to be able to quad skate until I am 91.“

Perhaps, dear readers, this is the point of it all.

HKRD in a Nutshell

Founded: They have been on the scene since 2013 Training space: the Government has given them space at Victoria Park, but it is open air, which makes training precarious during Typhoon season

Biggest Challenge: see previous response to training space

Membership: 30 active

Madame Quad: first bricks and mortar Quad Skate shop in South East Asia

Interesting Facts: rollerskates are sometimes not allowed in skateparks due to a strict adherence to semantics in signage: HKRD are wearing down the authorities one drop in at a time.

Madame Quad is located in Causeway bay, on Hong Kong Island. HKRD have open sessions every Monday. Reach out if you’re ever in the region. 

Follow us on Instagram:  @HKRollerderby@MadameQuadhk 

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