First, there’s the track, itself. A banked track is on an incline, with the highest section of the track towards the outside and the lowest section of the track towards the center. Flat track derby is played, as the name implies, on a flat surface.
Then, there’s the ruleset. In flat-track (WFTDA), jams are two minutes long, versus only one minute in banked track. Skaters serve penalties during the jam the foul actually occurred, instead of in the following jam.
From the skater’s perspective, the track itself presents some issues; if a skater is used to skating on one track, she must learn to skate in a derby contex on the other . Navigating the width of the banked track, inside to outside, on an incline is more difficult on its own… let alone understanding how to use the banks to one’s advantage. They must also learn to fall ‘correctly’. In flat-track derby, they learn to fall forwards, whereas in banked track, they learn to fall backwards, with both feet out in front, and hands in the air. Banked track skaters don’t typically stop in the middle of the track (unless falling), they bounce themselves into the kick rail, turn around, and move on. Hit styles and strategies are similar in ways, yet different in others.
Men’s flat-track derby is awesome, and if you’re interested in learning more, you can check out Men’s Roller Derby Association! There’s not a league in SETX at this time, but maybe one of you enterprising gents out there would be interested in starting one…