MRDA’s June 2013 Featured Skater of the Month: Sutton Impact

MRDA’s June 2013 Featured Skater of the Month: Sutton Impact of Southern Discomfort Roller Derby (London, UK)

June 3, 2013

Interview by Malcolm Sex

Sutton Impact demonstrating his trademark backwards blocking technique. Photo by Steve Newton.


What is your derby name?

I’m Sutton Impact. I chose it because my surname, Sutton, simply sounds a bit like “sudden” which in turn led to me thinking (which is hard for me) of other words I associated with sudden, and being a Clint Eastwood fan, Sudden Impact sprang to mind. I‘m just glad my parents didn’t name me Oliver (as in, “all of a sudden”)! Most people just call me Sutton which reminds me of my school days.

What number do you wear?

#3. It’s nice and simple and easy for the refs to call (hopefully, not often). I’ve also worked for the telecom company “Three” for the last ten years

What’s your pre-derby athletic background?

I played rugby for my school but spent most of my youth either cycling, on my Bauers stewarding at local roller discos, or street skating.

How did you become involved in roller derby?

Rollin StoneR (from the Royal Windsor Rollergirls) and I worked for the same company. He heard via mutual friends that I used to do a fair bit of skating, and as with many roller derby leagues, refs were in short supply, so he suggested I come along to a training session and the rest is history!

What is your preferred position on the track?

In the early days, I was alternating between jammer and pivot, but these days my preference is purely blocking. We’ve really been working on our general teamwork and walling which I believe has gone from strength to strength over the last few months.

Are you a founding member of Southern Discomfort Roller Derby? Can you give us a brief rundown of how the league got started?

Initially, men’s roller derby in the UK consisted of the refs from all across the country pulling together around mid-2009 to have enough players for some mixed closed door bouts.

In November 2009, this graduated to the first open door bout kindly hosted by the Lincolnshire Bombers (LBRG). During the following months, these bouts evolved further into “North” versus “South” contests with the Northerners skating under the moniker North England Roller Derby (N.E.R.D) and the Southerners coming together as Southern Discomfort. With the men’s game developing steadily, the core players from the London area met up in the famous Ace Café and agreed to formalise the league properly with the founding directors being Henry the Sk8th, Jay Pegg (now with Cowtown Butchers), and me.

How would you describe your skating style?

I’ve been skating for around 35 years. Being on skates is second nature to me. I’d describe my style as agile and sturdy with far too much backwards skating.

Sutton Impact showing his form. Photo by Steve Brown

So, Manchester, Montreal, and Southern Discomfort are all newcomers to MRDA. I think it’s safe to assume that Montreal will be bringing lots of hockey-style skaters and hits to MRDA, but the UK isn’t exactly a hockey powerhouse, so it’s not as predictable what we’ll see in the UK skaters.  What do you see English skaters and teams bringing to MRDA?

UK skaters are a real mixed bunch of styles with artistic, roller hockey, jam, and street skaters coming together in a sport that is growing by the day. I feel the UK game has evolved from the “hit as hard as you can” mentality of the early years, and we’re seeing a more cerebral derby working it’s way through with well-drilled walls and strategies. But, rest assured: the Europeans still know how to hit. The acceptance of both Manchester and Southern Discomfort into MRDA will hopefully spur a large number of teams across Europe to join in the coming months. Most notable are teams such as Roller Derby Toulouse’s Quad Guards and Newcastle’s Tyne & Fear, who both performed very well in last year’s Men’s European Roller Derby Championships. They will, without a doubt, be eager to apply once they have achieved all the application criteria.

From following the New York Shock Exchange’s tour of the UK, I discovered teams in the UK and France have some amazing skaters.  Is there any skater or team we should keep an eye on?

Southern Discomfort has developed a rivalry with the Quad Guards that culminated in the nail biting final at the Euros last year, where Southern Discomfort came back from a deficit of nearly 110 points with only about seventeen minutes left to win in the final jam by two points! This is how rivalries are made! The Quad Guards are a disciplined team with great walls and very energetic jammers.

We all know that UK teams are relatively new to competing at the highest levels of men’s derby. In my estimation, it seems that you’ve all responded very well to the challenges you’ve faced and continue to get better as a result. What do you think teams across the pond need to do to start breaking into the top ten spots in the rankings?

Distance is the biggest challenge to getting the sanctioned bouts required to be ranked. I have no doubt that European teams already have the ability to get into the top ten if given the opportunity (Southern Discomfort is currently #10 on Flat Track Stats.)

What team is Southern Discomfort’s biggest rival?

As mentioned before, Southern Discomfort has developed a rivalry with the French team, Roller Derby Toulouse Quad Guards. The tally is three wins out of three bouts for Southern Discomfort, but the last two games were won by one and two points respectively! Also being European Champions does put a target on us as the team to beat!

Sutton Impact takes on a wall of blockers while skating backward. Photo by Steve Newton.

If you were forced to play for another team in MRDA, but you could choose any one, what team would you play for and why?  

I honestly cannot see myself playing for another team. Helping form Southern Discomfort and watching it grow over the last few years is a relationship that I cannot imagine myself having with another league.

Looking forward to the 2013 season, do you expect any relatively unknown teams to take MRDA by storm and drastically improve on last year’s performance? Perhaps a new member team from the UK? 

Obviously, we’d love to make a mark in our rookie year in MRDA, but there are a number of teams out there that could create a stir. I’d love to see a non-US team make it to Champs in the same way Montreal and London have been threatening in the ladies’ competition!

The Shock Exchange did much to promote their “Shock the UK” trip last year.  Can you give us some highlights from your perspective?

Without the Shock Exchange coming over to the UK, there simply would not have been any European teams joining MRDA, so that in itself was a key outcome of the trip. In the short time they were in the UK, they were keen to bout or scrimmage as many leagues as possible, but the main highlight for me was the Southern Discomfort versus Shock Exchange bout as I feel we made them work very hard for their win and showed that European men’s roller derby belongs in MRDA.

Attending the WFTDA Eastern Regional tournament last year, I learned from many of the London Rollergirls that scheduling competitive bouts can be a real challenge.  Has Southern Discomfort run into similar problems? 

We have indeed found it a challenge to get bouts over the last few years, but this is getting better with the emergence of more and more teams around the UK and Europe. We recently played a closed door bout against the London Rollergirls travel team London Brawling which was certainly a challenge and great preparation for both teams. We’ll be playing each other again the week before we fly out to the US (LRG will also be commencing a west coast tour in June).

Sutton Impact jamming by the opposition. Photo by Richard Nicholson.

Do you plan to make a trip to the US this summer to meet your sanctioned bouts requirement? What can those following MRDA expect to see from Sutton Impact and Southern Discomfort in 2013? 

The Southern Discomfort players saved their pennies, fundraised, and received kind donations from the derby community, and were proud to visit the US last month! Southern Discomfort travelled to Eugene, Oregon for the Big O. The boys from the UK were greeted by what seemed like every roller derby fan or player in the area with warm smiles and thanks for travelling all the way across the pond!

We played the Drive-By City Rollers, Puget Sound Outcasts, and Deep Valley Belligerents with an additional hangover bout against the Lane County Concussion!

The initial bout against the Deep Valley Belligerents was the first men’s bout of the tournament and was a hard-hitting, closely-fought game with DVB emerging victorious 208 to 159.

Southern Discomfort’s second bout was against Puget Sound. We all knew Puget Sound would be a challenge, but Southern Discomfort held their own for the first half with the lead at some points, but Puget Sound showed their pedigree and opened up a lead after some power jams that earned them a well-deserved victory, 271-157.

The Drive-By City Rollers were up next, The L.A.-based team, made up of what seemed to be people that only knew how to smile, fought hard with the lead changing numerous times over both halves. With only a few minutes to go, Drive-By City eked out a lead of about 40 points (helped by Southern Discomfort not fielding a jammer!) Southern Discomfort utilized a late power jam to bring the game back to a 245 – 245 tie with one jam to go! Southern Discomfort got lead on the final jam, but due to a late call off and bodies flying in all directions, both teams were awarded two points! Southern Discomfort noted that a Drive-By City blocker had been sent to the box during the call off and used their official review (thankfully saved for this type of thing!) After the review that seemed to go on for an eternity, the head ref confirmed that Southern Discomfort got three points and the first win on US soil for a European men’s roller derby league, 248 to 247!

Finally, the host team from the Big O, the Lane County Concussion, had arranged for a hangover bout. Southern Discomfort now had the taste of victory and was keen to notch up another win! James Brains and the rest of LCC fought hard, but Southern Discomfort was unstoppable fighting through to a new high score of 544 to 76!

We originally hoped this would be enough for an MRDA ranking, but with the recent criteria change, we’ll need to get another sanctioned bout in to get ranked (fingers crossed for Manchester!) We were asked about the Mohawk Valley Cup but could only commit to one US tournament due to the travel costs.

Do you have any sponsors you’d like to give a shout out to here?

I’d like to give a big thank you to Double Threat Skates, the first derby-specific brick and mortar store in London, for sponsoring both me individually and Southern Discomfort as a league. They’re a crazy team that know and live derby (link to funny video), and I’d also like to give a shout out to Roller Derby City, who are amazingly supportive when it comes to supplying our uniforms and merchandise.

Is there anything I didn’t ask you about that you’d like to mention?

Skates set up: I am currently using both Riedell 695 and Bont Quad Racer boots. I have Reactor plates and gumballs on both with a selection of wheels ranging from classic old school SIMs 63 Rollersnakes, Radar Bullets, and Atom Jukes (from 88 through to 97 on both).