Preview: Beach Brawl

Preview: Beach Brawl DC in action in Des Moines. Photo © Danforth Johnson

Beach Brawl is hitting the Broward County Convention center in Florida this weekend, courtesy of hosts the Gold Coast Derby Grrls.

While it is one big event featuring 24 different teams, it’s effectively six different tournaments in one. The 24 teams have been split into six groups of four, with all the teams in each group playing each other over the course of the three days.

All 36 WFTDA-sanctioned bouts will be streamed courtesy of Gold Coast — and you’ll be able to watch it for free right here on DNN all weekend long.

These are mostly split by rough WFTDA ranking group, with some international teams punching above their weight as the organisers bet against the pure mathematics of the ranking systems, benefitting European teams who feel that they have been consistently under-ranked by systems that determined their relative strength based on a small number of old data points, then reinforced it with bouts against each other.

How the Europeans do will be interesting for those curious about their relative strength. This weekend does set things up perfectly in that regard for fans of triangulation, with bouts against teams from the full breadth of the WFTDA top 100 for three of Europe’s top teams in Florida and Oregon.

The results in the top four groups are all likely to have a serious impact on the 2014 playoff race, so we’ve broken the weekend down for those groups and teams so you know what to look out for.

Also of note this weekend is the North American debut of the Rock N Roller Queens from Bogotá, Colombia. They are as unknown a quantity as any unranked team to debut in stateside WFTDA play, and how they perform this weekend will be a good benchmark for the world of South American derby.

EDITOR’S NOTE: All the WFTDA rankings in this article are from the April 1 rankings. While the May 1 rankings have been calculated and will apply to all games here, they are still officially secret. They are likely to be published some time next week. This (along with the previous system of bi-monthly ranking releases) means that much of the ranking information included in this piece is informed guesswork, and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Group One

Steel City (WFTDA #18, FTS 28), Houston (WFTDA #30, FTS 22), Tampa (WFTDA #26, FTS 17), Stockholm (WFTDA #123, FTS 85)

Steel City, Houston and Tampa are all expected to head to Division 1 playoffs this year, having established and consolidated their positions in the top 40 over the past year.

Stockholm look on the basis of WFTDA and FTS numbers to be wildly outmatched. However, while the Swedes are definitely the underdogs here and anything close to a win would be both an upset and a coup, they are almost certainly under ranked by some distance in both systems. The European ranking silo means that their WFTDA ranking reflects only that they have played sanctioned games against other low- or unranked teams, with all the top European teams effectively dragging each other down.

The European FTS data is similarly siloed — when Stockholm played an unsanctioned game against Rocky Mountain, they outperformed FTS’ expectations for the bout significantly. While their differential was worse than that of both Toronto’s and Detroit’s at Anarchy in the UK, it was very much in the same ballpark–which in turn suggests that these three games should at least be much more competitive than the numbers suggest.

Steel City are the top WFTDA seeds in the group, but the lowest FTS-rated US team in it too. That is mostly due to the 274-100 pasting they received at the hands of a revived Charm City back in March. They last played Houston in Asheville at playoffs, coming away with an improbable win that saw them break their own playoff comeback record thanks to a 77-4 run in the final quarter.

Houston haven’t seen sanctioned action since playoffs last year, and over six months of inaction might have left a decent amount of rink rust that they’ll need to shake off quickly in their Friday night opener against Steel. Their 150-148 defeat to Tampa was the closest game in league history this time last year, so expect more tight encounters this weekend.

Speaking of Tampa Roller Derby (née Tampa Bay Derby Darlins), the Tantrums are 4-1 in 2014 already after a successful whistlestop tour of Michigan and Illinois in March that saw them dominate against Grand Raggidy, Killamazoo, Detroit and the Chicago Outfit. Their single loss was much closer to home, against cross-state rivals Jacksonville just last week–that 261-236 result was their first-ever sanctioned loss to another Florida team.


1900 EDT Friday: Tampa vs Stockholm (Track D)
2000 EDT Friday: Steel vs Houston (Track C)
1700 EDT Saturday: Steel vs Tampa (Track D)
1800 EDT Saturday: Houston vs Stockholm (Track C)

1500 EDT Sunday: Houston vs Tampa (Track D)
1600 EDT Sunday: Steel vs Stockholm (Track C)

Group Two

Detroit (WFTDA #34, FTS 35), Nashville (WFTDA #38, FTS 39), Tri-City (WFTDA #42, FTS 59), Fort Myers (WFTDA #54, FTS 62)

While Group 1’s results may have an impact on playoff seeding, it’s unlikely — with the possible exception of Stockholm — that results there will have a serious impact on who is going to playoffs.

Group 2, however, is a totally different kettle of fish. Nashville’s great run of results at Columbia’s Southern Discomfort this past weekend make them the form team in this group, as they look to build on the steady upward progress they’ve been making since playoffs last year.

They are behind Detroit in March’s WFTDA rankings, but are almost certainly going to be ahead of them in the May rankings that won’t see the light of day until all the Beach Brawl teams are home and hosed. This is mostly due to Anarchy in the UK, where they were the architects of their own rankings downfall in games against London and Rocky. Their deliberately gifting of a first-half shutout to London in the second of their two games was the clearest example of them repeatedly throwing away scoring opportunities and significantly lessening their ranking point return in a misguided attempt to limit the point differential in games that were already well out of reach.

Tri-City are straddling the D1/D2 cut-off; we think they’re likely to be in the D1 playoff places when these bouts take place, and are competing against the other teams in this group, among others, for one of the lower seeds in September.

Fort Myers are new to competitive WFTDA play, and — like Nashville — turned some heads at Skate to Thrill and continued to build a playoff-qualification platform. They only have 17 chartered skaters but are clearly hungry for success this year; while D1 playoff qualification may be out of reach this year, they look to be a very solid bet for D2 playoffs.

It’s also not out of the question that they could make D1 playoffs — but that would probably require 2 or 3 wins this weekend. If that came to pass, it might well end up being at the expense of one of their defeated opponents.


1700 EDT Friday: Nashville vs Fort Myers (Track D)
1800 EDT Friday: Detroit vs Tri-City (Track C)
1500 EDT Saturday: Detroit vs Fort Myers (Track D)
1600 EDT Saturday: Nashville vs Tri-City (Track C)

1900 EDT Sunday: Detroit vs Nashville (Track D)
2000 EDT Sunday: Fort Myers vs Tri-City (Track C)

Group Three

Gold Coast (WFTDA #46, FTS 48), DC (WFTDA #51, FTS 44), Suburbia (WFTDA #55, FTS 57), Bear City (WFTDA #135, FTS 107)

This is another group with teams fighting for playoff qualification. As well as potentially having the most on the line in each game, it should also feature some of the tightest games of the weekend.

Gold Coast are another newer WFTDA team in the melée for playoff qualification this year. They were ranked #86 at playoff time last year but weren’t yet eligible. This year they’ve gone 5-0, winning the Clover Cup and beat the 2013 D2 third-place team Blue Ridge back in February, leaving no doubt as to their ability or intent for 2014.

Suburbia just snuck into D2 playoffs under the wire last year; they were ranked 65 at the time, but declined invites, eligibility issues and the like for teams above them meant that they took the very last 2013 playoff spot.

While they were unceremoniously dismantled by Paper Valley and fell to a 201-point loss in their opening game, their other two games were lost by a total of four points. That ensured they’ve now moved up into a guaranteed qualification spot, but they’re going to need to work hard to stay there. The games against Gold Coast and DC will be key here; the low ranking of both Berlin’s Bear City and Cardiff’s Tiger Bay (who they play before ECDX) mean that ranking points will be at a premium.

DC and Suburbia have one win each in the all-time series between the two, but haven’t played since DC’s 247-137 win back in 2012. DC also has an 0-1 record against Berlin–they lost to the German side on their last US swing shortly before DC went on to finish sixth at the last-ever Eastern Regionals. DC do look to be on an upswing as well; they went 2-0 at Southern Discomfort, beat the rebuilding Blue Ridge and are FTS favourites to sweep the group.

Berlin’s pre-tournament warm-up 295-90 loss to Tampa will pull them up the rankings quite significantly; it’s 64% above their current average. That is both a good sign for their hopes of climbing the ranking ladder and will at least partially mollify the rankings damage the teams playing them might face. Their winning record against DC will also give Berlin hope that they can outperform their ranking here and start to lift up the overall ranking of European teams over the course of the summer.


1500 EDT Friday: Gold Coast vs Suburbia (Track D)
1600 EDT Friday: DC vs Bear City (Track C)
1900 EDT Saturday: Gold Coast vs DC (Track D)
2000 EDT Saturday: Suburbia vs Bear City (Track C)

1700 EDT Sunday: Gold Coast vs Bear city (Track D)
1800 EDT Sunday: DC vs Suburbia (Track C)

Group Four

Blue Ridge (WFTDA #45, FTS 49), Dallas(WFTDA #65, FTS 92), Carolina (WFTDA #80, FTS 87), Royal Windsor (WFTDA #168, FTS 165)

The last group of teams in playoff contention are a very mixed bag.

Blue Ridge finished third in D2 last year with a win in Milwaukee and have gone 4-2 since. They’re currently on a run of four wins on the spin after losing their opening games of the season to DC and Gold Coast as they adapted to some changes in their rosters following some moves both out and in; Boston’s Dixie Kicks is probably their highest-profile addition.

Dallas are 4-3 on the year, but have lost three on the bounce since the Cen-Tex invitational in February; if they want to repeat last year’s performance and qualify for D2 playoffs, they will almost certainly need at least two wins this weekend, and to avoid any heavy losses.

Carolina are currently sitting at #80 in the WFTDA rankings and even lower in the FTS rankings — but they are at least 3-0 in 2014, one away from equalling their win total from last year where they went 4-10. They are FTS favourites over Dallas and Windsor, so would be expected to match that 2013 win number this weekend — even taking European siloing into account.

Windsor are in an unenviable position. They haven’t won a game since May 2013; their most recent game was against Rainy City, the team they beat that day, and they lost 269-145. They are WFTDA #168, FTS 165, and have been sliding down the UKRDA rankings since they were introduced last year.

Their WFTDA ranking position for playoffs is consolidated by five sanctioned losses to other European teams, making any dream of D2 playoff qualification all-but mathematically impossible irrespective of results here. They will, however, almost certainly throw a spanner in the works for Blue Ridge, Dallas and Carolina — even blowouts for them over Windsor would still see them rewarded with points below the averages needed for playoff qualification.


Friday 1300 EDT: Dallas vs Royal Windsor
Friday 1400 EDT: Blue Ridge vs Carolina
Saturday 1300 EDT: Blue Ridge vs Royal Windsor
Saturday 1400 EDT: Dallas vs Carolina

Sunday 0900 EDT: Blue Ridge vs Dallas
Sunday 1000 EDT: Carolina vs Royal Windsor

The Rest

Maine, LowCountry Highrollers, Tallahassee, Rock N Roller Queens (Group 5) & Alamo City, Lehigh Valley, Sioux Falls, Mississippi (Group 6)

Maine are the only team among the bunch competing in the bottom groups who have a realistic chance of qualifying for playoffs this year. They look likely to scoot up the May rankings above some of the teams in higher groups here — but their results will need to be exceptionally favourable to help their cause given the relative ranking position of their opponents.

You can see the full Beach Brawl schedule on the Gold Coast website, and you’ll find the live stream right here on DNN!

Lex Talionis

Lex is the Content Director for Derby News Network.