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MIAMI - The tough girl names of these new steel wheels teams tell it all: Divas De Las Muertas, Sunshine Smashers, Beach Bruisers, and Swamp City Vixens.

Combining childhood roller skating skills with some good ol' fashioned black and blue bruising, these "Broward Derby Grrls" are part of a nationwide roller-derby resurgence.

In four years, the number of roller derby members of the U.S. organization overseeing roller and inline skating has skyrocketed from 800 to nearly 6,000. Likewise, roller derby leagues have gone from a lone league in Texas in 2001 to nearly 300 across America. New leagues have also formed abroad in countries like Canada, Australia, Scotland, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

The biggest growth has taken place in California, which has 26 leagues, and Florida, which has 14. Kristin Hendrick, marketing director for the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, attributes the growth to year-round warm weather found in both states.

"It is the fastest growing roller sport, period!" said Jessica Rettig, spokeswoman for Lincoln, Neb.-based national organization USA Roller Sports.

The appeal, said Dale Rio, editor of national women's roller derby magazine Blood & Thunder, "is the sports combination of sportsmanship, teamwork, athleticism, competitiveness, and campiness."

After peaking in popularity in the 1970s - and spawning movies like Kansas City Bomber and Rollerball - roller derby made a huge national comeback thanks, in part, to the 2006 A&E reality TV show, Rollergirls, observers say.

The rules of modern roller derby - a sport that debuted in 1922 - require lots of skill and strategy. Players who commit fouls are put in black metal cages with brass knuckle door handles called "Skank Tanks."

Unlike roller derby of the 1970s, which was played on a curved "bank" track, these amateurs roll around a flat track - mainly because a bank track has to be set up and stored, according to roller derby aficionados.

Most players doll up to resemble Fifties pin up queen Bettie Page - only with tattoos, fish-net stockings, hot pants, and body piercings.

And the sexy pseudonyms abound: Betty Knock-her, Surely MacPain, Nauti-Sea-Cups, and Filthy Scar-Lit, are just some of the Broward Derby Grrls skate de plumes.

"The only thing that is fake are our names," said Brenda Bach, 43, a sign language interpreter from Plantation, Fla., who hits the derby track as Sin D. Lap-Her.

"We play a real game of roller derby, not the staged fights of the 1970s, and when it is played real it is rough enough," Bach said.

Some women said they had long dreamed of being a roller derby player after having watched it on television. Others said it allowed them to skate again, an activity they loved as little girls. Still others talk about the ultimate combination of athletic competition and show business.

All agree the sport allows them to bond with other women and make new friends.

That's certainly the case with the local pioneering league - the Broward County Derby Grrls - who last year hitched onto the fastest growing women's amateur sport.

"We are out to have fun - and making fun of gender stereotypes can actually be empowering," said Kate "Domme E. Nation" Underwood, 24, of Pembroke Pines, founder of the Broward County Derby Grrls.

"I'm another person when I go out there - entertaining the crowd and playing hard," said graduate student Mandy Little, 25, a member of the Molly Rogers Rollergirls, a league from Melbourne, who goes by the name of Holly Hacksaw. "It is my alter ego."

The reason the game is played for real with no pro-wrestling fakery is because participants and spectators would tire of seeing fake violence after a few times, observers say.

Spectator Arlene Sullivan, 47, of Tamarac, Fla., said the strategy of the game is what has made her a fan.

"But after watching off and on all my life I've decided to go for it and just signed up with the Broward County Derby Grrls," said Sullivan, a mother of three who is currently working on learning how to skate.

Sullivan says she is not afraid of sustaining the sports common injuries: bruises, sore buttocks, and fractures.

"I've gotten it worse falling off speeding motorcycles," said the longtime Harley enthusiast.

Looking at Danielle Schadl whip around the roller derby track one recent Sunday night, knocking down competitors with hip-checks, one would never believe the mother of three had only learned to roller skate eight months ago.

"I was like Bambi on ice - we all were," said the 36-year-old Schadl, describing how she and her teammates looked last September when they launched the Indian River Derby Girls, a league from Fort Pierce, Fla.

Schadl's 17-member league traveled all the way to the Gold Coast Roller Rink in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last month to take part in the Sunshine State Smackdown, a weekend-long tournament that pitted them against the Molly Rogers Rollergirls from Melbourne, Fla., and the state's top team - the Broward County Derby Grrls, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Said Schadl: "If you had asked us last September if we would good enough to be competing, full-contact, against others teams in April, I would have said, 'Probably not!'"

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