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Photograph by Jenn Ireland
That Was Then: Lindsey Seiler, a.k.a. Lulu Lockjaw, sports an old SCRG tank top at a practice in early March.

A League of Their Own

The Santa Cruz Roller Girls split from their founder and changed their name, but there are no hard feelings. Really.

By Jessica Lussenhop

At Saturday night's Santa Cruz Roller Girls interleague bout between the Beach Flat Betties and the Lost Girls, a couple of fixture Rollergirls were missing. The first was the SCRG logo's pinup roller dolly, missing since no merchandise was offered for sale. The second was league founder Robin "YoLife" Hoff, who was watching from the stands rather than down on the floor.

"I was incognito, I had my SCRG hat on and I was just kind of laying low, because everyone was coming up to me and asking questions," said Hoff afterward.

Those questions centered on the announcement, delivered during the second half of the bout, that the Santa Cruz Roller Girls are, for all intents and purposes, no more.

"I've got some great news," said announcer Kim Luke from the stage of the Civic Auditorium. "We have finally gone nonprofit."

"You guys are now the Santa Cruz Derby Girls," added announcer Lex van den Berghe.

Though it was news to some in the stands, the gears of change have been turning for months. On March 30, the league officially began operating as a nonprofit.

"In early May, we're unveiling the new name and a new logo," says team spokeswoman Evie Smith, a.k.a. blocker Raven Von Kaos. "All the members are still here, all the same games are lined up."

Well, not all the members. Hoff, who brought the sport to Santa Cruz from Seattle, where she played for the Rat City Rollergirls for three years, has resigned her position on the board of directors and hung up her skates. And despite the obvious benefits of going nonprofit--discounted venue rates and an easier platform from which to launch the long-anticipated junior derby league--neither party will comment explicitly on why Hoff's departure coincides with the nonprofit filing and the change in name, or why her resignation was accompanied by her exit from the team.

Both Hoff and the remaining Derby Girls are handling the explanation of the split very delicately. "This to me was just a project, a very worthwhile one and an obviously successful one, but sooner or later there was going to be a time when I needed to just back out and let them take the helm," said Hoff.

"It was an opportune time for all of us," says Smith. "The way things were being done wasn't working for the league."

Hoff started looking for players about two years ago, when she moved to the area and began distributing fliers and notices on Craigslist. As the only one who knew a lick about derby, Hoff fell into the role of coach, captain, player and business head.

"[Last season,] we didn't really know what we were doing. We definitely relied on her, she was definitely the momma bird," says Smith.

And though the league has seemingly enjoyed nothing but raucous success--an amazing first season record and sold-out bouts start to finish--the grind of operating a 30-girl team from both a business and sports perspective did create pressure.

"The accounting part of it was really difficult. I didn't have any help, I wasn't keeping perfect records," says Hoff. "The business end of things--not everything got done perfectly, my skating wasn't as good as it could have been, my captaining and my coaching wasn't ideal. It felt like I was spread way too thin." Hoff even had to file a lawsuit against the designers of the old pinup logo after they backed out of a handshake agreement and demanded the team stop using the mark. As the league matured, Hoff's influence was diluted with the election of a five-member board of directors, with Hoff filling a lifetime "founder's" seat, which she has now vacated. The rest of the members are elected on a yearly basis.

Though Hoff says she had always planned to step away from her leadership role the league, things seemingly progressed to that end faster than she may have been prepared for.

"Maybe a part of me wanted to hold on a little too long, and so, you know, there were some girls who were ready for me to move on, and that's totally understandable," she says.

Though both sides are staying officially mum as to the extent of any friction, the last league meeting in March seemed to precipitate Hoff's resignation.

"At the last league meeting, we all kind of knew that there was a change coming. We just didn't know when it was happening or what it was going to be," says Hoff. "It kind of came to a head a little bit, and even though it was hard to make the decision, I think it was perfect timing."

Regardless of how it happened, the team is positioned to begin operating in its new nonprofit skin, and the logo will likely be commissioned from Jimbo Phillips, creator of Santa Cruz Skateboards' "screaming hand" graphic, to help them put a face (and a body) on their new identity.

"Make her curvy. The old logo for me was cute, but it never felt like it represented us and how powerful we are," says Smith. "We decided to take this opportunity to rebirth ourselves basically. Start afresh."

Hoff says it's been left to her to sell off the remainder of the old logo T-shirts, hats, foam fingers and sweatshirts.

From here, Hoff plans to complete her last year of school toward her MBA and added that though she will probably never skate again, "I'm not turning my back on derby, I'm just freeing up some time for myself and my future for now," she says. "I told them all I want is to go to games. All I really want is some tickets. That's it."

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