Roller derby athletes come together statewide to form team Aloha Skate

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Two-thirds of Aloha Skate pose during their first team practice on Feb. 10. Photo Courtesy: Aloha Skate

The state of Hawai‘i is now home to a new roller derby team – one boasting a roster of players from all four major islands, the U.S. mainland and even Europe.

Aloha Skate held its first practice on Feb. 10, at the Waimea District Park Gym on the Big Island. But the team already has big plans for its future, including “California Tour” and “Big Island Mashup” events scheduled for this fall, and potential play in states including Arizona and Louisiana in 2025.

It’s taken a lot of time for Aloha Skate to reach this point. Big Island residents Bambi “Bamz” Lau and Kailima “Pocket” Ross founded the team sometime in 2021 when it became clear Team Hawai‘i – the islands’ former statewide roller derby team – would not regroup following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Team Hawai‘i was exactly what Aloha Skate is … The top skaters in all of Hawai‘i,” said Lau. “After COVID happened, derby was going downhill. I was trying to make sure that derby still lived on in the islands and was still thriving.”

Lau and Ross, with assistance from Big Island roller derby coach Matt “Grand Master Smash” Panzarino, held an open recruitment period for Aloha Skate in late 2023 and early 2024. The drive netted a coed squad of 30 players, all of whom play or have played on other Hawai‘i roller derby teams. While most reside in the Aloha State, some live in Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Texas and – most surprisingly – Germany.

Aloha Skate players are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first team uniforms. The design was inspired by a pair of Nike sneakers. Photo Courtesy: Aloha Skate

“We took everyone who applied within that time frame. Now the goal is to get everybody on the same page and learn the strategies and skills our coach wants them to learn,” Lau said. “The people who applied are the ones that want to take derby to the next level.”

Kaua‘i resident Katryna “Kat 5” Weir, a former member of the Garden Island Renegade Rollerz, leaped at the chance to join Aloha Skate. She had been looking for a more competitive roller derby experience.

“I was so competitive. I wanted to get better and I wanted more,” Weir said. “I went to RollerCon in Las Vegas last summer, played some higher-level games and realized, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I need’ … That’s why Aloha Skate was so intriguing to me.”

Weir is now planning Aloha Skate’s California Tour, a week-long road trip slated for this October. The event will begin in San Diego and conclude near Bakersfield, a city north of Los Angeles.

“[We’ll be] playing games along the way,” said Weir. “About five different games in each city.”


Aloha Skate will then host other teams during its planned Big Island Mashup in November. High-level players will lead participants in several clinics, before competing against one another in a tournament.

Aloha Skate’s Katryna “Kat 5” Weir (center) and Bambi “Bamz” Lau (right) in a bout against a California team. Photo Courtesy: Bambi Lau

Lau was first introduced to roller derby – a contact sport that sees two teams of five go head-to-head while skating on an oval track – in 2012 when she joined the Waimea Wranglers.

“As soon as I put my skates on, I loved it. It feels like freedom when you’re skating. You just feel so free,” said Lau. “And then the hitting part, which is what I love the most, is great as well. You’re getting all of your frustrations out. It’s like football on wheels.”

Weir fell into the world of roller derby in 2020, after taking up rollerblading at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. A friend, aware of Weir’s competitive nature, suggested she trade in her blades for skates and join the Garden Island Renegade Rollerz.

“I was hooked from day one. My thing is the strategy to it: The fact that you’re playing defense and offense at the same time,” said Weir, who even wears her skates when playing pickleball to achieve a better workout. “I’m an athlete, I’ve played sports my whole life, and this one is [different] … There’s so many things that you’re thinking of and that you have to do.”


Weir, like Lau, also appreciates the physical aspects of the game. As a mother of young children, it helps her unwind after a long day.

“Being able to be with all these women and moms, and then hit them. You don’t think of anything else when you’re there,” she laughed. “You can have the most stressful day ever, and then you go to practice and forget about everything else because you’re just thinking about the next play. You can take out all of your aggression and everything.”

Although Aloha Skate is not accepting new players at this time, its founders hope the team’s revitalization of local high-level play will spark a renewed interest in roller derby across the state.

Currently, only three other organizations are active in Hawai‘i: The Garden Island Renegade Rollerz on Kaua‘i, Pacific Roller Derby on O‘ahu and Big Island Roller Derby on the Big Island. All are still rebuilding after the COVID-19 pandemic led many former players to hang up their skates.

“Recruitment for teams throughout the whole state is really, really low. It’s hard to get people to come out to skate,” said Lau. “But I think that if we had more activity here … Then people would be more attracted and may hopefully want to join the home teams that we have on the islands.”

You can find Aloha Skate online on Facebook and Instagram.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."

Scott can be reached at [email protected].
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