Shayna Meikle has always considered pigeons to be underrated. So, when it came time to choose her nickname for roller derby, she became Pigeon.
As Meikle took her first shots on her 21st birthday, she met a bartender who liked her tattoos. Later that night, that bartender invited Meikle to try out for a roller derby team she was starting in Santa Cruz, where Meikle was attending college.
Around 50 people were at the roller derby tryouts. Despite having zero formal training, Meikle was one of five people who made the team in 2007. During tryouts, Meikle would fall and get back up with a smile on her face, she says. To this day, she thinks that’s what set her apart.
“I was really young and immature in this group of like, really serious women,” Meikle said. “I felt like they didn’t take me serious enough for what I knew I could do. They just brushed me off.”
She grew up in Harbor City and would get from place to place by skateboarding. Feeling the uneven pavement skip beneath her wheels was part of the experience, she said, her hands moving in a wave-like motion, as she described how her wheels would fly across the sidewalks in her neighborhood.
When she started college and moved to Santa Cruz, she got a car and drove as a primary mode of transportation.
“Growing up and going from here to there was on the sidewalk,” Meikle said. “Seeing people’s front yards and smelling the smells was really sensory, I guess. When I became an adult, I realized ‘Holy shit, I missed that a lot.’ I was feeling that hole in me.”
According to Meikle, roller derby combined the competition and community that she yearned for in college.
Meikle said using skates meant for roller derby in an outdoor space is extremely taboo. Derby skaters fear that exposing their skates to outdoor elements, like uneven pavement, could mess up the alignment or integrity of the skates.
But that didn’t stop Meikle. She returned to the outdoors to skate as she had done in her youth in Harbor City.
“That was a really big deal,” Meikle said.
Her act of defiance caught the attention of Michelle Steilen, the creator of Moxi Roller Skates. Steilen offered Meikle a Moxi sponsorship for pushing the envelope and skating outdoors.
Years later, in 2013, Meikle bought the Moxi Skate Shop in Long Beach on Retro Row, which is now known as Pigeon’s Roller Skate Shop.
However, before Meikle became a business owner and fully devoted herself to the skating community, she was a science teacher. After graduating from the Univerisity of California, Santa Cruz where she studied ecology, she moved back to Southern California, moved into her mom’s garage and taught science to seventh graders in South East Los Angeles.
While she was still teaching, she started her own derby league, which she cites as her first business. Her days consisted of teaching, but her nights were filled with roller derby management.
Initially, she refused offers to take over the Moxi Skate Shop because she was a teacher, but a year of managing the roller derby team made it clear to Meikle that this was her passion.
“I left teaching, took all my money and bought this dying shop,” Meikle said. “I made no money for years. I was so passionate about it that I didn’t even care. I loved Top Ramen. I loved living in an apartment with six other homies. It wasn’t a big deal.”
Eventually, Meikle transitioned the shop to become Pigeon’s Roller Skate Shop. The storefront, on Fourth Street in Long Beach, is a bold pink with the shop’s name adorned on the front in shades of purple and teal.
Meikle says that she feels lucky to be a female business owner in Long Beach, specifically on Retro Row. She’s part of a Facebook group called “female business owners of Long Beach.” However, she admits that being a woman in the business world has been challenging, but empowering.
“I feel like one of my passions is rubbing people the wrong way,” Meikle said. “So, I feel very at home in the place that I am. I don’t feel like an imposter and I don’t feel bothered at all by people’s discrimination.”
Due to the pandemic, Meikle made the decision to keep all sales online for longer than most businesses in Long Beach. Though they’ve reopened their store, she shared that the skating world is still feeling the effects of the pandemic. Though the derby league is in a “weird place” because of COVID, she hopes that they will be competing again in summer 2022.
Because roller derby is such a high contact sport, being able to practice is nearly impossible. Rinks are closed and the roller derby association has strict rules about who can practice.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Meikle recalls cities removing basketball hoops from courts in an effort to discourage contact. This was a great opportunity for roller skaters to monopolize the space to skate.
However, when the economy started opening again, the hoops were put back and skaters were displaced. Meikle says that she remembers hearing about skaters using parking lots and someone from the community getting hit by a car while skating.
To Meikle, the lack of sanctuary for skaters was an emergency.
“People skating need a safer place,” Meikle said. “So, that’s when I started putting in some legwork to find a venue [for a rink] and realized it’s impossible. It was just dead end after dead end.”
Finally, she got into contact with a special events coordinator at 2nd and PCH. In September, Pigeon’s Roller Rink pop-up opened and is slated to remain until Dec. 31. The pop-up is host to special events, such ‘80s themed nights, emo skate nights and skating classes.
Though the pop-up is temporary, Meikle’s desire to remain a role model is unwavering.
“I grew up not having any role models,” Meikle said. “I think I’m really relatable. I’m female, I’m not Type A, I’m plus-sized and I’m fucking obnoxious sometimes. So, I like being in a position that people can be like, ‘Oh shit, I can be myself?’ [That’s] my favorite part.”