|Sham*Rock blocks Knockaleptic and winds up for a strike. Photos by Justin Parr.|
Pillow-fighting might sound sexy to some, but for the women of Slumber Bash Co. — a San Antonio-based, all-female pillow-fighting league that started in February — it’s a serious sport. The only girl-on-girl action anyone is going to witness is when one whips the other across the face with a pillow and hammers her to the ground.
“A lot of guys might be disappointed coming `to these fights` thinking that the girls are going to be half-naked,” said Leanna Blanchard, 23, a real-estate assistant and student who is known by her alter-ego Sham*Rock when thrashing opponents with pillows. Blanchard said she thought of her nickname when she put the word “pillow” in an online thesaurus and the adjective “sham” came up. The moniker fits perfectly, since Blanchard is of Irish descent (she walked out for her first fight to theme music that sounds like something from The Departed soundtrack).
Created by “Big Daddy” Fred Perez, Slumber Bash Co. was originally meant to be an affiliate organization of a Canadian group. Perez said when he did not get support from his neighbors to the north, he decided to build a new league from the ground up.
“I wanted to design a new extreme sport that had never been introduced in the U.S. before,” Perez said. “These girls go out there and give it their all. People think, ‘Oh, it’s just pillow-fighting.’ But do it for three minutes and see what happens. People have tried it, and after 30 seconds they are huffing for air.”
|Xiren wallops Crew Chief during their three-minute bout.|
So, what’s a good strategy to adopt when making your debut as a professional pillow fighter? If you can last the entire three minutes, Perez says, you have as good a chance as anyone to win.
“The big girls, after a few swings, they’re tired,” Perez said. “For a girl who is smaller, she is more agile and can move out of the way and get some good hits in.” And with no weight categories in the league, women can be matched up against one another no
matter their sizes.
Strutting onto the mat for a fight, Susie Garcia, 26, an insurance agent and mother of a 4-year-old daughter, transforms into Xiren, a fierce and volatile competitor looking to win the purse for the evening (there is always a money prize for the top-place winners, Perez says). Xiren, who quickly earned a tough reputation for breaking a woman’s toe during tryouts and bruising another competitor’s ribs during a March 28 match at Mustang Sally’s (the injured women have since quit the league), says it is not her fault that she is naturally bigger than most of her opponents.
“I’m hurting everybody,” Xiren said with a hint of guilt. “I guess I’m just in the moment and don’t realize my own strength at that time. But to me `pillow-fighting` is fun. To the girl I’m fighting, I don’t know if it’s really as fun.”
Reaching for her queen-size fiber pillow from Wal-Mart (the words Slumber Bash Co. are silk-screened on the pillowcase), Xiren makes quick work of her lesser adversary, wielding her pillow like a spiked medieval battle flail.
The fuller women, however, do not always have the easier task ahead of them. It might have seemed like an unfair contest when 5’10” colossus Valerie Carrell (aka Ronin), 31, stepped up to battle 5’1” sparkplug Lyndsay Gentry (aka Lawless), 21, during their debut match.
“I’ll try and use my height to my advantage and use overhead swings,” Ronin said before her brawl with Lawless. “You can’t imagine how cathartic it is to beat someone over the head with a pillow.”
Cathartic, maybe, but not always successful. After three minutes, a couple of jammed fingers, and a bruised ego, the petite Lawless — sporting a Dora the Explorer hairdo — was named the victor.
“Size doesn’t matter,” she said. “Smaller people are like firecrackers. They just blow up.”
See Slumberbashco.com for team and tryout details, and upcoming bouts.