The beautiful and wickedly smart Prim Reaper of the Surly Gurlies is our August Skater of the Month. Bet you didn’t know she had so much rad geek cred. Check her out below!
Explain the inspiration/story behind your name.
My derby name came to me in the place where I have a tendency to do some of my best thinking. In the shower. At the time, I wasn’t even brainstorming potential derby names. The name simply came to me in a flicker of a thought, and I immediately fell in love. The Prim Reaper. I felt like it embodied everything I wanted to become on the track—a skater who may appear prim and proper on the surface, but as soon as that jam whistle blows I’ll be poised and ready to bring my opponents to their demise. I also love that the name pays a bit of tribute to my undying love of all things macabre. It really is a perfect fit.
Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
During my first year of derby, my pre-bout ritual usually just involved me getting insanely nervous. Over time, I’ve managed to tailor a routine that helps me maintain a more zen state of mind, and gives me a healthy start to the day, both mentally and physically. The morning always starts with a protein-packed breakfast, a light workout to wake my muscles, and a lot of focus on positive visualizations. Then I take my time to get ready, usually with my favorite music blaring in the background. Music always plays a role in calming my nerves and getting me into the right mindset for a bout. Anything and everything metal is my go-to on bout day, because it has a way of speaking to my soul and getting me fired up.
Probably the most private detail about my personal pre-bout routine is something I’ve done just minutes before the starting whistle at every game I’ve ever played. I always find a quiet place at the bench, usually somewhere that I can get in a few last minute stretches, and I will take a moment to say a prayer for myself, my teammates, and my opponents. It’s my final moment of peace and serenity before a flood of adrenaline takes over my mind and body for the rest of the game.
What do you think about when you’re lacing up your skates for a big bout?
About a year ago, I started making it a point to write a few specific goals for my upcoming game down on paper. Typically while I am gearing up for the bout, I remind myself of those goals and visualize myself succeeding at them. Sometimes I will take it a step further and write those goals on my arm with a Sharpie so that I can be reminded and encouraged during any moment of the game. It has really become such a valuable way for me to keep a level head, even during my most stressful bouts.
How did you get involved with roller derby?
I discovered roller derby during my sophomore year of college at Arizona State University. At the time, I was completely engrossed in school and oftentimes found myself stressed out with no productive outlet to relieve all that tension. I decided on a whim to Google roller derby in Arizona and AZRD was the first league to catch my attention. I emailed the recruiter and signed up to attend my first “new girl” practice. I hadn’t been on skates in at least a decade, so I have to confess that I was way too afraid to skate at my first practice. I came simply as an observer, uncertain of whether I would actually have the guts to return and try out a practice on skates. That night was the very first time I met AZRD’s incredible coach, Fred Nutz. I can honestly say he was one of the biggest driving forces behind why I had the courage to come back to practice the following week and actually skate. The way he carefully taught and individually worked with each of the Smashers based on their needs was very encouraging. I could tell immediately that he wasn’t the type to judge or get frustrated with a new, inexperienced skater. Instead, he was happy to take absolutely anyone under his wing, regardless of skill level, and teach them everything he knew. I owe so much of my skating ability to Fred, and I will be forever grateful for everything he has taught me over the years.
What was your pre-derby sports experience? Do you play any other sports?
If World of Warcraft was a high school sport, I would have been an All-American athlete. Seriously. Unfortunately, venturing through Azeroth to slay the Alliance doesn’t exactly count as a sport. So I’m afraid that my pre-derby sports experience is rather lacking. Simply put, sports and athletics were not my forte when I was younger. I was much too focused on getting good grades, listening to punk rock, playing WoW, and spending time with my friends. Though I was never particularly horrible when it came to physical activities, I never found a sport that sparked my interest enough to dedicate my time to it. Roller derby changed that for me completely. It changed me forever.
Tell us about your daily life outside of derby. Day job, hobbies?
Outside of derby, I‘m a pretty serious science geek. I work full time in a scientific research lab that studies molecular changes that occur in various neurodegenerative diseases. My lab mainly studies Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS—diseases that all strike very close to home for me, because I’ve had grandparents stricken with each of them. It’s surreal to take part in research on diseases that I have personal experience with, and it’s encouraging to know that my lab’s research has the potential to improve the quality of life for people diagnosed with such devastating illnesses.
As far as hobbies go, a very integral part of my life has always been music. I’ve been enamored by music since a very young age, and I’ve always had a bit of an innate knack for it. I listen to music almost 24/7, and like to play it whenever I have the spare time. I mainly play guitar and piano, but have dabbled in many instruments over the years. I’m pretty certain that one of the only professions in the world that could talk me out of being a scientist would be shredding on guitar for some maniacal metal band \m/. This is almost too nerdy to admit, but reading and learning are also pastimes that I genuinely love. I’m a total bookworm, almost to a fault. I’m reading 4 different books right now because I couldn’t decide which to read first—I was too excited for all of them.
Tell us about your rookie year and what it was like learning derby?
My rookie year was nothing short of a whirlwind. Coming from a background almost completely void of competitive sports, and only very casual experience with skating at roller rinks as a kid, everything I was experiencing in derby was completely foreign to me. Occasionally it scared me, but for the most part it fascinated me and challenged me to come back for more week after week. I had to learn all of my skating skills and all the rules of the game completely from scratch. It was tough at times, but looking back on everything now, I have come SO far from where I started. I’m an astronomically different skater than I was to begin with. Sure, I’ve shed plenty of sweat, quite a few tears, and earned a lot of gnarly bruises over the years… But in retrospect, it has all been worth it.
Share your best derby moment/memory.
Hands down, the 2013 Arizona State Conference Championship! The Surly Gurlies entered the state tournament in 5th place, and after 2 hard-fought victories it came time to face our fellow leaguemates and reigning state champions, the Bad News Beaters. After years as the underdogs and the single most intense game of my entire derby career, the Surlies came out as the victors. Sure, it was one hell of a proud moment for all of us Surlies, but I honestly look upon that championship game as a proud moment for ALL of AZRD. For the first time, AZRD’s two home teams were competing with each other for the number 1 and 2 ranking in Arizona—a dream come true for me, for Coach Fred, for the league. One of the most picturesque moments of the entire tournament was taking the track alongside the Beaters to introduce both teams to the crowd not as fierce opponents, but as a league united. Something I genuinely admire about this league is the unity between all skaters on all teams. There is certainly a healthy amount of team rivalry, but at the end of the day I know we all have each other’s backs regardless of what team jersey we may wear. The state tournament was a perfect showcase of how our rivalry and camaraderie bring out the best in our skating ability and the best in our love for one another.
What do you hope to accomplish in your roller derby “career?”
It has been my dream since day one to don the stripes of the Tent City Terrors. I’ve had my fair share of struggles and successes over the years, but I still always remain focused on that ultimate goal. Once that goal is attained, I know a whole new realm of goals, struggles, and successes will be opened for me to experience. But for now, I have my eyes set on those stripes, and I will continue pour my heart and soul into derby in pursuit of them. Ironically enough, my derby career has also recently taken a turn for pursuing another set of stripes as well… The stripes of a derby referee! My adoration of roller derby and lifelong love of learning has culminated into a beautiful obsession with learning to officiate the game. I’ve spent countless hours getting lost in the WFTDA rulebook and officiating manuals, and I’ve even started to attend practices as a ref. Reffing has allowed me to fall in love derby from an entirely new perspective – something I never even thought possible. Keep your eyes peeled, because in the months to come you might start seeing The Reaper appear in ref stripes out on the track! One day, I hope to add being a pretty killer ref to my roller derby resume.
Who is your derby hero/heroes?
I feel like the world is chock full of incredible roller derby athletes. The Suzy Hotrods and Bonnie Thunders of the derby world definitely don’t go unadmired by me. But one thing I have come to adore about AZRD is that we have so many phenomenal skaters among our ranks that I don’t hesitate for one second when I name my own leaguemates as my derby heroes. Who better to revere as a hero than someone you can learn from and grow with on a day to day basis? I know I can list skills and abilities that I admire about every single one of our Tent City Terrors. The best part is I can approach any skater at practice and ask her for advice on how she is successful at what she does, and she will teach me right then and there. It’s a beautiful thing.
How has derby affected you in “real life?”
One of the things I’ve become the most grateful for in my derby experience is how it has affected my lifestyle outside of my time spent on the track. Because of derby, I have slowly begun to transform into the athlete I never knew I could become. To better myself as a skater, I began a heavy weight lifting and HIIT cardio routine that I absolutely fell in love with. My days feel incomplete without it! I’ve also adopted a much healthier way of eating, making sure I’m fueling my body with everything it needs to perform at peak condition. Implementing all of these changes into my day to day life has completely transformed how my body feels and performs, especially during a grueling practice. Overall, I’m a much healthier person because of derby, and that has allowed my confidence to soar.
What advice do you have for girls who are interested in playing roller derby?
Don’t worry about the what-ifs, and don’t let any of your fears hold you back. DIVE RIGHT INTO DERBY AND GIVE IT YOUR ALL! Derby will empower you, give you confidence, and teach you things about yourself that you never knew. She will love you, teach you, and take you outside of your comfort zone to show you how strong you really are. She will introduce you to a community of inspiring athletes that will become your lifelong friends. She may frustrate you at times; she might even make you cry. And she will most assuredly tax your body, give you bruises, and make you sweat your way to exhaustion – but no truly great relationship comes without its battles. And let me tell you, in the end, derby is worth every single struggle. Why? Because derby is also worth every single triumph.
If you had a theme song for roller derby, what would it be?
This is insanely hard for me because I’m passionate about way too many bands and way too many songs. If I have to stick with one song here, I’ll go with “Next in Line” by Children of Bodom! It’s a badass song by one of my favorite bands, and the chorus seems very fitting for a skater who likens herself to The Reaper.