Tsunami Tsue: Roller Coastie

By Petty Officer Second Class Kip Wadlow

PORTSMOUTH, Va.- She waits. Her body is encased in protective armor, carefully honed through months of training in anticipation of this moment. Muscles tense, coiled for attack.

Frozen in place, she hungrily eyes her prey, in sight but out of reach. The shriek of a whistle sends her quarry scampering away. Still, she waits. A shark-like smile slowly spreads across her face in anticipation of the coming carnage. Suddenly, two more whistle shrieks scream above the roaring crowd.

Exploding from a racer’s crouch, she sprints on her skates’ toe stops, gaining speed before easing into the smooth stride of a natural killer.

Crashing over roller derby opponents with the speed and explosive force implied by her nickname, Tsunami Tsue, co-captain of the Tidewater, Va., based Dominion Derby Girls, strikes again.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lorraine Hollar, aka Tsunami Tsue, of the Dominion Derby Girls, skates her way around the track during a bout against the Wilmington City Rough Roller's Diamond Demolitia Jan. 28, 2007. Hollar, a four-year Coast Guard veteran, has competed in women's roller derby for the past year. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kip Wadlow

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lorraine Hollar, aka Tsunami Tsue, of the Dominion Derby Girls, skates her way around the track during a bout against the Wilmington City Rough Roller’s Diamond Demolitia Jan. 28, 2007.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

When she isn’t hurtling around the roller derby track, Tsue, better known to co-workers as Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lorraine Hollar, spends her days working as a legal assistance yeoman at the Coast Guard legal office in the Military Justice Branch of the Coast Guard’s Maintenance and Logistics Command Atlantic in Norfolk, Va.

Hollar, whose daytime responsibilities include assisting with local court cases involving Coast Guard members or traveling to assist with courts-martial and processing administrative separation of Coast Guard members, said that she doesn’t have difficulty completing her duties while participating in various roller derby competitions.

Hollar gets mixed reactions from people when they find out she competes in a roller derby league.

“Some people laugh, some say that it’s not real. Some people that saw it back in the seventies are surprised that it’s back today and really want to know if it’s all it was cracked up to be,” said Hollar.

Hollar’s supervisor, Lt. Michael Vaughn, isn’t one of those people. He says that it’s a great feeling having Hollar working for him.

“I know that if things get crazy in court, she’s got my back,” said Vaughn.

Getting Started, a Family Affair

Hollar became interested in roller derby after watching the A&E Channel documentary titled Roller Girls and started searching for local teams on the Internet.

It was Hollar’s husband, Jonathan, also a Coast Guard petty officer, who actually located the Dominion Derby Girls.

The Hollars are a military family in the truest sense and the long deployments take their toll on the family. Lorraine, Jonathan and 8-year-old daughter, Shiloh, spend as much time together as possible.

Jonathan spends his time as a league referee answering to the name Grin N’Barit, when not deployed as a gunner’s mate onboard the 270-foot Coast Guard Cutter LEGARE, home ported in Portsmouth, Va.

“This is a great way for our family to spend time together. Shiloh can play with the other kids whose moms are on the team when she’s not watching her mom and me skate around the rink,” said Jonathan.

“This little girl comes with me every Monday night. She prides herself on getting her homework done fast after school on Mondays, so we can go to the rink. She loves to watch,” said Lorraine.

Rolling Thunder

Back on the track Tsunami Tsue is busy navigating through the chaos of a jam, a two-minute skating period in roller derby. Women, clad in fishnet stockings, mini-skirts and revealing tops, answering to names such as Becka Tha Wrecka, Jeri Brawlwell and Deatra Mental are blocking each other tooth and nail. Tsue and an opponent, each wearing stars on their helmets to signify their position as jammers, forcefully bob and weave through the rolling catfight.

A jammer is the point-scoring member on the team, and their task is simple. The more opponents they pass while skating in bounds, the more points they score. The first jammer who makes her way through the bumping, thumping, elbow-throwing mess on the first lap of the jam takes the title of “lead jammer” and is allowed to call off the jam before the allotted two minutes expire. This allows the lead jammer to implement her team’s strategy and is done to keep the opposition from scoring more points.

Hollar said her favorite position is lead jammer because she’s in charge of scoring the points and making the crowd scream.

“The fans are counting on you to lead your team to victory over your opponents. I make it my goal to get through the pack first. I want lead jammer. This means I have control over the jam. I can stop it early for strategic reasons, or I can keep it going for the full two minutes in order to make my opponents weak,” said Hollar.

A roller derby bout consists of three 20 minute periods. A period can have as many jams as the skaters can fit into that time. There are only 20 seconds between each jam in order for both teams to switch out skaters before the whistle starting the next jam sounds.

“If you’re not on the track, you’re left behind on the sidelines and your team skates without you. The whistle waits for no one,” said Hollar.

“I also love it because when that second whistle blows, you are under the gun. You are skating through that pack with a target on your back, you have to think quickly, [and] you have to use your agility and speed, skating on one skate coming through the curves if need be to stay in bounds,” said Hollar.

“My goal is to leave my opposing jammer in the pack with my awesome blockers. A jammer is nothing without her blockers. I want her stuck there so I can come back around and lap her, which is called a “grand slam.” As soon as I make it through the pack and hear the fans screaming at the top of their lungs, it makes me skate faster,” said Hollar.

Safety First

Over the years the popularity of roller derby has waxed and waned but safety of the skaters is always a top priority.

“We want to be able to play the sport but we also have to remember that safety is a big part of it. We’ve had a lot of injuries in the past due to the fact that we just didn’t know how brutal the sport was,” said Hollar.

The team’s injuries run the gambit from nasty bumps and bruises to fractured tailbones and a shattered wrist.

“This time around there are a lot more rules, mainly because the women that play still have to get up the next morning, go to work and take care of their children and families. Flat track derby is more sports oriented, whereas the bank track back in the 70’s was more of an entertainment spectacle,” said Hollar.

Before being allowed to even practice, skaters must have league regulated safety gear, including a helmet, mouth guard, wrist guards and knee and elbow pads.

“Sometimes, practice makes perfect, but you don’t want to have too many errors on the way to success because you don’t want to see people go to the hospital,” said Hollar.

Defense, it’s not just about Scoring Points

Even though she loves scoring points, Hollar isn’t afraid to spend time in the pack as a blocker. Making herself as wide as possible she controls the pack, slowing down the opposing jammers, while delivering devastating blows to opponents unlucky enough to come within striking distance.

“I love it! My favorite is the sweet spot. The curves. I have no sympathy for the other team while I am sprinting top speed to plow into an opposing jammer,” said Hollar.

“My favorite is when their skates come off the ground; that’s when I know I’ve done my job,” said Hollar.

Hollar doesn’t restrict herself to hitting only while blocking. While skating as a jammer in a recent bout, she delivered a vicious, sweet spot, shoulder check to the Wilmington Del., based Wilmington City Ruff Roller’s Diamond Demolitia’s jammer, Witchblade, midway through first period that sent both skaters crashing to the ground.

Although she aggressively attacks opposing jammers, Hollar said she doesn’t try to hurt them.

“You never want to physically injure someone to where they can’t play because then it’s no fun for you,” said Hollar.

It’s all for a Good Cause

Some might ask why these women subject themselves to such harsh punishment. The answers vary from skater to skater and range from wanting to be a part of something out of the ordinary to craving the adrenaline rush that comes from leveling opponents.

Whatever their reasons for competing, two main things unite these women. The first is the extremely strong bond shared by all skaters in promoting and educating people about the sport. The second is the urge to help the less fortunate.

During the first intermission, in their bout against the Diamond Demolitias, the Dominion Derby Girls donated $1,000 dollars to the Help and Emergency Response (HER) Shelter, an organization located in Hampton Roads dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence.

The team also raised more than $8,100 for the Special Olympics while participating in the 2007 Virginia Beach, Va., Polar Plunge.

Bittersweet

The Dominion Derby Girls’ hometown crowd gave them a standing ovation as they took a celebratory victory lap following their 177-113 victory over the Diamond Demolitias. In the 2006-2007 season, the Derby Girls have played three inter-league games. Their victory over the Demolitias was their first of the season.

The victory was also Hollar’s first since she started competing a year ago. She led the Derby Girls in scoring with 52 points.

“I’m proud of you, Mom. You skated so fast and everyone was cheering for you,” said daughter Shiloh.

But as happy as she was with the victory, Hollar was sad that Jonathan, currently on deployment, was not there to share the moment.

“I cried last night. I wanted him to be here for it! He was our first referee to come out and help this league, and for him to not see our victory was hard. He has always been so encouraging of my skating, so understanding of the time commitment and the demand that derby takes,” said Hollar.

“I have been doing this for over a year, and it would never have been possible without him. I have come home from practices upset at my performance; he is always there to tell me that tomorrow’s another day. He was there in spirit last night. We all miss him very much,” said Hollar.

Jonathan was overwhelmed when he received news of the victory.

“Do I wish I could have been there? Hell yeah! I was so happy when I heard about the news that my eyes started to water. It was great to hear that that she was the lead scorer in the bout. She has worked so hard to be where she is,” he said via email.

“The girls that she skates with are incredible. Without their help she would have had a much harder time,” he said.

“I have skated by her side since she started. Through a fever, eye surgery-you name it. I have always been there to support her. It was really hard not being there. I was even jealous of the fans,” he said.

“She knew I was there in spirit and I am so proud of her,” he said.

Though the popularity of roller derby has waned in the past, its fans, both old and new, continue to seek out the new havens where the sport grows and thrives; and as long as there is a group of fast skating, hard hitting women this shark smiling Roller Coastie, with the support of her family, love of the sport and tenacity on the track, will keep cruising for the kill.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lorraine Hollar, co-captain of the Hampton Roads based Dominion Derby Girls, and her 8-year-old daughter Shiloh celebrate the team's 177-113 victory over the Wilmington City Ruff Roller's Diamond Demolitia Sunday, Jan. 29, 2007. Hollar, aka Tsunami Tsue, was the Derby Girl's high scorer with 52 points. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kip Wadlow

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lorraine Hollar, co-captain of the Hampton Roads based Dominion Derby Girls, and her 8-year-old daughter Shiloh celebrate the team’s 177-113 victory over the Wilmington City Ruff Roller’s Diamond Demolitia Sunday, Jan. 29, 2007. Hollar, aka Tsunami Tsue, was the Derby Girl’s high scorer with 52 points.
U.S. Coast Guard photographs by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kip Wadlow

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