Monday, May 27, 2024

Throwing Curling Stones like an Olympian. Or not.

Born in the frozen fields of Scotland and now a beloved winter sport enjoyed by millions worldwide (especially in Canada), curling might not be the first sport you think of when picturing yourself gracefully gliding across ice.

Now, I’ll admit, I’m more of a spectator when it comes to sports (like baseball). But there’s something about the novelty of throwing a giant, polished rock across the ice, that piqued my curiosity (and a checkmark on my bucket list!) And believe me when I say it was something I won’t soon forget!

From the different curling stone equipment to the tactics of the game, let’s explore why this sport might just sweep you off your feet (pun intended)!

Curling Stone Pinterest

What is Curling?

Curling: Not just a winter activity, but an Olympic sport that turns ice into a strategic battleground. Two teams of four players take turns sliding heavy, polished curling stones (weighing a whopping 44 pounds/19.96 kgs!) towards a target on the other end. Sounds simple, right? The magic lies in the sweeping!

By strategically sweeping the ice in front of the stone, players can alter its speed and direction, guiding it towards the target or knocking out their opponent’s stones. It’s a mental and physical challenge, demanding strategy, communication, and yes, a bit of sweeping muscle!

Curling Stone

Why Should it Be on Your Bucket List?

Now, for the million-dollar question: Why should curling be on your bucket list?

Forget the intimidation factor – curling is incredibly welcoming to beginners. It’s a social sport, perfect for bonding with BFFs or trying something new with your significant other. Plus, the learning curve is gentle, and the feeling of sending that curling stone gliding perfectly towards the target? Pure satisfaction!

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a complete novice, curling offers a unique physical and mental challenge that’s guaranteed to leave you wanting more.

Curling Stone

What to Expect From Taking a Learn to Curl Class (My Experience)

Arriving at the rink brought back fond memories of my brief figure skating days and flashbacks of the painful apple-sized bruise on my hip that my not-so graceful waltz jump gave me. Curling could not be as dangerous. Could it? We were given a brief overview of the sport and terminology necessary for our first day of instruction. If I had never mentioned it before, I am a slow learner…very slow, just ask my college jazz dance teacher. But, my lack of speed is made up for in pure determination.

Once on the ice, we started by holding two rocks (the granite curling stones thrown by the shooters) and practiced pushing off a foothold device called the hack. Okay, it’s official, this is freaking’ hard and my Converse tennis shoes were not helping. The flat-footed bottoms did not protect me from the hypothermia going on in toes.

Next, we had to hold the stone in one hand and the broom in the other, push off the hack, don’t pass the hog line, aim for the skipper, release the rock and get it in the house. Huh?

Apparently it is, after five attempts and icy wet pants from failure. It was now time to do my domestic duty of sweeping. Sweeping is when the player takes the broom and briskly rubs it across the ice to smooth  it out, making way for the curling stones to glide freely. Warning: Sweeping promotes uncontrollable pee-your-pants laughter. I was really trying to be a helpful teammate and assist the stone to its destination, but sweeping is funny.

After just an hour, the other participants were ready for a battle and my competitive nature was ready for the challenge. Me, my broom and a couple of curling stones…we were ready for action. The object was similar to a game of horseshoes; throw your curling stones closer to the bulls-eye than your competitors, knocking theirs out of the way when necessary and don’t celebrate too loud when you succeed.

There are no braggers in curling, it’s a gentleman’s sport. The first game, my stone didn’t even reach the house (bulls-eye), those little suckers take some power to get across the ice. What about game number two? R-E-D-E-M-P-T-I-O-N! My little stone won the game for my team! It wasn’t actually in the tee (center) of the house, but close enough to quietly toot my own horn.

We walked away from 2-hours of throwing curling stones and sweeping with seriously sore abs, a genuine appreciation for the sport and a great story to tell of a tremendously fun new experience.

Annette curling

The Basics of How to Play

Each team takes turns sliding their stones, with teammates sweeping in front to influence its path. Here’s where the different roles come into play:

  • Lead: Throws the first two stones, focusing on precision and setting up “guards” (protective stones) close to the target area. They typically do minimal sweeping as their focus is on delivering their shots accurately.
  • Second: Throws the third and fourth stones, often with the responsibility of “take-out” shots (removing opponent’s stones). They collaborate with the Third (Vice) in sweeping during their deliveries and their teammates’ stones.
  • Third (Vice): Throws the fifth and sixth stones, known for their versatility and strategic thinking. They form the “sweeping duo” with the Second, working together to control the speed and direction of stones throughout the game.
  • Skip: Throws the last two (crucial) stones, calling the shots and leading the team’s strategy. Due to their leadership role, they typically do minimal sweeping themselves.

Points are scored based on the stones closest to the bull’s eye, called the “house.” It’s a game of strategy and teamwork, where players use their specific roles and coordinated sweeping to outmaneuver their opponents.

Curling Stone

Basic Equipment for Regular Curlers

Curling Stone

The star of the show. Crafted from dense granite, the weight of a curling stone is typically between 38 to 44 pounds. The smooth glide and precision they offer make them the real MVPs on the icy rink. Just remember, it’s not about size; it’s about how you gracefully toss it!

Curling Stone

Curling Shoes

To conquer the icy terrain, you need the right shoes. Curling shoes feature a slippery sole for gliding and a grippy sole for stability during the all-important delivery. It’s the footwear that turns you into an ice-dancing maestro on the rink.

Curling Stone

Curling Broom

The Curling Broom is not just for show—it’s a key player in the game. Sweep vigorously, and you can alter the curling stone’s path. It’s the strategic tool that adds a twist (or curl) to the game, turning a simple slide into a masterful maneuver.

Curling Stone

In the realm of winter sports, curling is a sport that’s more than just sweeping and sliding. While everything about the game, from the rules to the curling stone equipment, might seem intimidating at first, the beauty of the sport lies in its accessibility. From beginner leagues to friendly pick-up games, there’s a place for everyone on the ice.

Remember, it’s not about brute strength or Olympic-level agility; it’s about the camaraderie, the strategy, and the thrill of sending that rock sailing down the ice with a well-timed sweep. It might not be your typical baseball game, but trust me, the feeling of outsmarting your opponent and landing that perfect shot is a victory in itself.

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