Curling. Ever heard of it? If you’re anything like me, your knowledge of curling is a vague recollection of a bizarre sport you catch glimpses of every four years during the Winter Olympics when you’re waiting for speed skating to come on. You know it involves some sort of puck/stone thing and people furiously sweeping the ice for some reason. While I knew very little about the sport I was thrilled when my department decided to bond over curling at the FM Curling Club this weekend.
We arrived and were told to slip on a pair of curling shoes– one had a rubber sole and the other had a slick plastic surface, perfect for sliding… or I soon realized… falling. As I starred out over the ice I thought, “Shuffle board on ice? How hard could this be?” After all, curling is the sport with the oldest Winter Olympian ever: 54 year old Scott Baird on the US Olympic Curling Team. (Yes, I definitely just looked that up). If a 54 year old could do it, my youthful self would have no problem. Boy… was I ever wrong.
We were told to warm up by practicing pushing off the edge of the rink and seeing how far we could slide by lunging forward across the ice. Almost simultaneously a group of us pushed off the edge and proceeded to fall flat on our stomachs. This was going to be a little more tricky than I had thought and it was about to get a lot more difficult. After we had given up on our “warm ups” we were ready to practice pushing off the starter block with a stone in hand. Again, epic fail on my part. I slid a solid 2 feet before proceeding to wipe out. Next it was time to practice sweeping. We took our curling brooms and walked up and down the ice trying to keep up with the stone sliding behind us. I don’t know when the last time I had laughed so hard as watching grown men and women screaming at stones to speed up or slow down while furiously sweeping their brooms back and forth as their team mates yelled “SWEEEEEP” at the top of their lungs. Eventually I “found my footing” and it was time for a match.
In a nutshell, here are the rules: Each team is composed of 4 players. The goal is to shoot your stones… called “rocks”… down the ice into the “house” (basically a bullseye). Two other members of your team sweep the ice with a curling broom that looks more like a mop than a broom, in order to melt the ice and speed up the rock or curve it in some direction. Similar to bocce ball, whatever team has the most rocks closest to the center of the house (or button) wins. For more accurate and detailed rules I highly recommend the Wikipedia page I keep referring to.
Even though the combined experience between the 15 or so of us was about zero years, we caught on quickly thanks to a few tips, and a lot of patience, from a club member. Even though I didn’t score a single time and my knees are a little black and blue today, it was an amazing experience that I highly recommend. After all, when else do you get to shoot rocks and houses and get away with it?