Despite its high-profile major league teams, the San Francisco sporting scene includes more than catching the Giants at AT&T Park or cheering on the 49ers at Candlestick Park. Fact is, as one of the US’s more creative and offbeat cities, San Francisco more than caters to visitors with an appetite for alternative sports. From roller derby leagues to skating competitions, the city’s diverse athletic scene welcomes sporting fans of all stripes to a front row seat.
Although the sport has gained a new level of popularity since the derby-focused Whip It starring Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore came out in 2009, roller derby still offers some of the most exciting alternative sports viewing possibilities in the city. A contact sport that sees two teams skate at breakneck speeds around a rink (points are scored when a designated player from one team laps players in the opposing team), the largely female-filled sport is well represented in San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay Bombers have been part of the American Roller Skating Derby since 2009 and participate in regular dust-ups, while the Bay Area Derby Girls challenge other teams in several derbies per month, on average.
San Francisco is home to a thriving skater community and subculture (the sport first took off in California), and there are spots all over the city to see both professionals and amateurs in action. For a casual introduction to the sport (and to catch BMX bikers in action as well), it’s best to head to one of the Bay Area’s skate parks – The Berkeley Skate Park just across the Bay is one solid option. There are also a number of annual and recurring tournaments and competitions to look out for. The Cali Am Jam hosts events in Oakland Park and elsewhere around the area that pit young, up-and-coming skateboarding stars against one another.
It could be chalked up to the mild climate, but Northern Californians definitely tend towards the outdoorsy. Though San Francisco’s famous hills aren’t quite mountainous, rock climbing has taken off in the city. Climbing groups regularly take on San Francisco’s “wild” climbs, including the boulders at Land’s End Park. Visitors who are looking for a gentler introduction to the sport can also head to one of the city’s many climbing gyms. Dogpatch Boulders offers one of the largest indoor rock climbing facilities in the country, with 5-metre high rock walls.
Header photo: Berkeley Skate Park © ChazWags
Written by Claire Bullen
Have you attended any of these alternative San Francisco sporting events? Tell us about it below.