‘Playing a contact sport on skates takes nerve’ 

By on April 29, 2024


The team works out even in the chilly months. (Photo courtesy Kill Devil Derby Brigade)

The Kill Devil Derby Brigade keeps roller derby alive on OBX

By Maggie Miles | Outer Banks Voice

When “Bilbo Smackins,” or Julie Kirn as she’s known off the track, first walked up to a practice for the Kill Devil Derby Brigade, she didn’t know what to expect. She had just gone from a very physical job at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island to a stationary desk job and was looking for a way to stay in shape. Her coworker recommended Kill Devil Derby Brigade.

“I was really nervous,” she recounts. “Like, I almost didn’t go in on the first day that I showed up because I was like I’m not athletic. I’m not an athlete. I didn’t play sports in high school or anything like that.”

But Kirn, met with was patience and kindness, was made to feel at ease and had fun right away, with other members of the brigade eager to teach her everything she needed to know about the sport. She says if she could describe roller derby in one word, it would be “community.”

“They really care about your emotions, and they really care about how you are mentally on the track, because that’s something I really struggle with, is my confidence on the track,” says Amber “Nut” Mingeaud, who joined the brigade two years ago after her boyfriend’s mother, who’s on the team, encouraged her to join as a way to make friends after moving to the Outer Banks.

The Kill Devil Derby Brigade was founded in August 2010 by Willow Lewis who had just moved to the area and was a former skater of the Rat City Rollergirls in Seattle. She missed the sport after moving to the Outer Banks, so when she found the roller rink at Aviation Park, it was a perfect place to start building a team. The brigade made their first public appearance in the Kelly’s St Patrick’s Day parade in 2011. They went on to have their first home event at Aviation Park in April 2012, and obtained nonprofit status in 2015.

Thanks to our unofficial sister team, Dominion Derby Girls. (Photo courtesy Kill Devil Derby Brigade)


The Brigade has spent the last couple years rebuilding and teaching new players, so they haven’t been able to play competitively. But now, with around 20 players, the Brigade is gearing up to play their first official match in the fall. Until then, they go weekly to Virginia Beach to participate in mixers hosted by the Dominion Derby Girls, where they are matched up with members of other teams to play in unofficial scrimmages.

Roller derby is a fast-paced, full-contact sport played on roller skates, usually on an oval track. It involves two teams of five players each, who skate around the track in the same direction. The game consists of a series of short matches called “jams,” during which one player from each team, known as the “jammer,” tries to lap members of the opposing team to score points, while the other players, known as “blockers,” try to hinder the opposing jammer and assist their own.

Brigade Vice President “Britt Viper” (Brittany Ostland Slaughter) says she knew the sport would be perfect for her often getting in trouble in her youth for being too aggressive in soccer and basketball. She was all in on the league after attending her first informational meeting.

“I love taking a hard hit. That’s like the biggest source of confidence for me. I love staying on my skates when somebody’s trying to knock me down,” says Slaughter. “I feel like Superwoman.”

Roller derby on the Outer Banks is not for the faint of heart, and the Brigade has had their fair share of obstacles to overcome over the past 13 years. But they’ve always figured out a way to keep going. In 2014, without the number of players needed to compete, the team joined forces with a players in Boone NC, Appalachian Roller Derby.

A sunset practice at Aviation Park. (Photo courtesy Kill Devil Derby Brigade)

In 2016 their rink was destroyed by a hurricane. It took a year and a half to rebuild it, and by the time it was rebuilt in 2018, they only had a handful of skaters left. And then, COVID forced them to dismantle again. When they began to re-organize in 2022, there were three players left. Current President and team Head Coach “Moxie Oxenfree” (Abbe Lynn Pass) was instrumental in making sure the league carried on after COVID.

“Most of the team moved on, but me and a few others, we couldn’t be forced into retirement,” says Pass, a Rodanthe native who started playing the sport in 2011 in Greensboro with the Camel City Trashers while in college. A self-described “sit inside and read a book kid,” Pass was inspired to try the sport after watching the movie Whip It and joined the Kill Devil Derby Brigade as soon as she moved back in 2012. She was determined to make sure the Brigade would live on.

“We held an interest meeting in April 2022 and have been snowballing since. I became the coach and president out of necessity, not desire. I’d love to just pull up and skate like I used to, but I saw that if I didn’t take the lead, roller derby would no longer be played on the Outer Banks. I just couldn’t have that,” says Pass. “I’m really proud of our resurrection.”

The Brigade is still working on finding enough players to be able to compete on their own as a team, and they don’t have the typical indoor track that most teams have, but they make it work. They play on a cracked outdoor concrete track, unlike the typical smooth indoor track, which makes them unable to hold scrimmages at home, so they travel each Monday to Virginia Beach to play mixers, with the Dominion Derby Girls as their unofficial sister team. They hold two practices a week at the outdoor track at Aviation Park, and host frequent New Skater Nights for anyone who wants to come out and learn. They also volunteer for different events and organizations around the community.

Fun mixer as a few of the players competed in “Glitter vs Goth.” (Photo courtesy Kill Devil Derby Brigade)

Pass says that with more Outer Banks women coming out to try the sport for the first time, they are on track to have enough players to play their first game post pandemic in the fall.

“And it couldn’t have happened if all the new skaters we found didn’t take a chance on themselves…Playing a contact sport on skates takes nerve…All my skaters come from that place. Every week they have put their skates on and discovered in themselves the true depth of their tenacity and determination. That’s what I’m most proud of, giving other people what I found in this sport,” says Pass.

“It’s very body positive,” says Slaughter. “You know, there’s just a lot of women out there doing awesome shit with their bodies. And it’s just a really good place to feel strong and awesome… Especially now that I’m a mom…roller derby is just a way for me to go be my badass self a couple nights a week and not be mommy. And it’s been really good for my mental health just to kind of find myself again.”

But despite the physicality and intensity, the players say the contact is controlled and they are trained to do it in a safe way.

“Most people think of roller derby as the banked-track, scripted wrestling type stuff they saw on TV back in the 70’s, throwing elbows and fighting etc., says “Pain Angel #125” (Tanya Hill), who is current Treasurer of the team. “That’s not at all how modern roller derby is played. It is all real, full contact and a lot of rules and strategy. We play under the WFTDA [Women’s Flat Track Derby Association] rule set.”

The Brigade had planned events coming up for open recruitment, but their track is getting resurfaced so the open recruitment will be postponed until the track is complete. Stay tuned to their official Kill Devil Derby Brigade Facebook and Instagram page to find out the new dates for those events.

Kelly’s Annual St. Paddy’s Day Parade is always a fun time to showcase some skating and pass out candy, flyers and smiles. (Photo courtesy Kill Devil Derby Brigade)

“Roller Derby is a place where everyone comes as they are from all walks of life in all shapes and sizes,” says Hill.  “It teaches you that you are strong and independent, and you can be an athlete if you want to even if you never have been before. It is the most amazing physical and emotional outlet. When you have a bad day and show up for practice, as soon as you put your skates on, it frees your mind of everything. Nothing else matters for about two hours.”


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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