Avalanche (Amber Castaldo for the norms) is a roller girl on the Rose City Rollers' Break Neck Betties team. But since they don't accredit roller derby universities with the same proliferation as clown colleges, there's no clear path to becoming a hard-hitting roller derby athlete. Castaldo started by first becoming an elementary school teacher, a mother, a small business owner, and then finally a jovial force of nature on skates.
What did you go to school for?
I went to Saint Martin's in Lacey, Washington, for elementary ed. I became a teacher. My husband had a small business in the basement of our house called Buyolympia.com, and it was kinda crazy as it started growing, so it didn't make sense for me to go back teaching [after I got pregnant]. We ended up outgrowing the warehouse in Olympia. We found this amazing spot on North Mississippi and packed up our house and shipped it all here.
How did you become involved in roller derby?
When we moved to Portland I didn't really know anyone. This girl would come into the shop [Land] and she was tiny and she would talk about roller derby. I finally Googled roller derby in Portland and I saw that they were having tryouts that week. I tried out and I was really horrible. I could pretty much skate in a circle and that was it. I tried to do a plow stop, only to tuck and roll and fall over.
How did you get the name Avalanche?
The very first time I scrimmaged, I kept tripping everyone around me. I fell into the bench and got a black eye. From that point on everyone joked that I was taking down everyone around me. Not long after that, I saw a giant [road] sign that said, "avalanches ahead." And it was perfect. It's strong and fast and takes everything down in its path.
How did your past prepare you for being a roller girl?
I have always been really active in sports. When I was in college I ran cross-country and I've been snowboarding for years. I'm competitive. I never really excelled but I loved being on a team; it was really awesome when you were on the floor, you were together. There was a sense of community.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in your field?
I think the best way to get into roller derby is to jump right in. Don't be mad if you're not successful right away. It's really hard. It never crossed my mind that I couldn't do it, but I was far from good at it. Just believing that I could really helped. Anyone can do it—it's just a matter of trying.
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