The Castlegar Dam City Rollers’ recent trip to Portland, Ore. had its highs and lows.
At the peak of the trip, the Dams had the chance to jam at the Hangar — roller derby Mecca — but at the low end, Cheyanna “shyRAMasaurus Wrex” Shypitka was robbed — twice.
Following the Dams’ game against the Rose City Wreckers at the Hangar, the rest of the team headed home, but Shypitka decided to stay in Portland.
“I had been looking forward to coming to Portland for about the past six months. Portland has been one of my dream vacation locations for a really long time; I’ve always wanted to go there,” she explained. “So I decided, since I had some money saved up and I was supposed to be travelling with some friend of mine — who cancelled so I was alone — I decided to stay.”
But shortly after checking into a hostel, Shypitka had $300 U.S. in cash stolen. A friend was able to email her some money, so she decided to stay and explore Portland the next day anyway.
“I drove downtown, I parked my car in the lot, and I spent the day just wandering around and exploring old town Portland — it’s really beautiful, it’s a fantastic city — but then at the end of the day, when I was heading home, I got in my car and started driving, because the window had been smashed out so completely that there was no broken glass in my rear window, and I didn’t actually realize it was missing until I was on the highway,” Shypitka told the News.
Once she realized what had happened, Shypitka knew her roller derby gear, which had been in the back of the car, was gone.
“I had to pull over and cry,” she said.
The thief also stole an inflatable dinosaur suit that Shypitka had just bought to wear to the after party. Luckily, she had her passport on her when she was robbed.
Before leaving Portland, Shypitka made a Facebook post sharing the two robberies, and by the time she arrived home in West Kootenay, her team had set up a GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/wrexs-derby-gear-fund) to help her replace her gear.
“And then I had another good cry and really thought about the person who stole that stuff from me, because, I mean, I had a terrible-time weekend, but they probably had a way worse one,” said Shypitka. “And the homelessness in Portland was something that really took me aback and shocked me. Like I hadn’t expected to see tent cities in a first world country like that, not the way I did. I thought about the person who took something special from me because they were so desperate and it really moved me and I felt very strange about accepting money from strangers to replace my gear, when there are people out there who are just trying to survive.”
Shypitka has pledged that a portion of the money donated on her GoFundMe page will be donated to a homeless shelter in Portland.
The value of her gear bag and everything that was inside was approximately $1,500. Her skates alone were worth about $700. For now, Shypitka is able to use her outdoor skates with a new set of wheels and to borrow gear, and she hopes that her insurance will help cover some of the cost.
Despite the setback, Shypitka still enjoyed much of the trip.
“Playing in Portland was a dream come true, it really was,” she said. “It was a fantastic experience that, despite the difficulties, I wouldn’t hesitate to do again.”
The Dams played two bouts while in Portland, the first against Beaverton’s Air Raid Roller Girls (AARG) on Saturday, March 25, and the second against Portland’s Rose City Wreckers on Sunday, March 26.
The Dams and the AARG faced off in a hockey arena, sans ice, which meant that there were actual penalty boxes and player boxes.
“Our game play in the first half was really sloppy, and so the game was really close,” explained Shypitka. “In the second half we really tied it together, played better as a team and got a bit more discipline, and that clinched us the win.”
The final score was 197-153 for the Dams, but the team also suffered numerous injuries. Tonka Tash fell and was benched for a big part of the game and some of the other players had old injuries that were exacerbated during the match.
The Dams also only had a roster of 10 on the trip, whereas a comfortable roster has 14 players, so the team picked up a player from the AARG headed into its match against the Wreckers, which they played at the Hangar.
“Playing at the Hangar is like one of my top-10 greatest derby moments, and truly a dream come true for the team and for any dedicated derby person — it’s pretty much derby Mecca in the west,” said Shypitka. “The greatest team in the world played there on Friday and we got to watch, and I was sitting three feet from one of the greatest teams in North America and then two days later I was skating in that exact same position myself.”
The Hangar is home to the Rose City Rollers, two-time winners of the International Women’s Flat Track Derby Association championship.
The Dams didn’t win at the Hangar, the game ended 283-180 for the Wreckers, and Friskin’ U Dwn, Kitty Karnage and Jinjoe Fight-Us were all injured, but Shypitka said it was still a great experience.
“I also feel really proud of my own personal game play. In that game against the Wreckers in the Hangar, I feel like I skated a fantastic bout,” she said.