Last week, while skimming through the headlines on the Daily Camera web site, I came across an While skimming through headlines on the Daily Camera web site, I ran into an article on the Nederland Curling Club. And on the sidebar it said, “Learn to Curl, Saturdays, 11:15AM.” After watching some Olympic curling on CBNC on Friday night, I thought, “Why not? After all, how many people can say that they’ve even TRIED curling? It’s not exactly one of the sports you do in school gym.”
Due to the snowy, slick roads I didn’t arrive until 11:30, pulling up to the open air rink carved into the side of a hill. Recalling the broken wrist I got once ice-skating, I walked gingerly across the ice to the cluster of folks pulling curling stones from the hockey bench.
Briefly, curling involves shoving stones down a lane of ice towards a target or “house”. Shoot too hard and you miss, too light and you don’t make it. When releasing the stone, you’re supposed to spin it a smidge, which will make it “curl” or curve when it slows down so you can get around stones in the way. Your teammates follow the rock down and sweep in front of it. Sweeping will make the stone go straight further and delay when the rock curls. (According to the CNBC commentators, good sweeping can drag a rock five additional feet.) Scoring is like bocce – rocks closest to the middle of the target score, as many as are closer than the other team’s stones.
Yes, in curling you’re encouraged to throw rocks at houses.
I spent three hours curling yesterday and have a great respect for the Olympians. They sure make it look easy!
First there’s shooting, where you throw your stone down the ice. I’m a rightey, so my right foot starts on the “hack” (stationary thing in the ice to push off) with left to the side; when I kick off, my left leg ends up curled to my chest and my right extended out behind. Stone in my right hand, broom in left hand for balance.
When you kick off, you end up with two feet and right hand in line. And this kind of makes you fall over. I think all of us newbies fell over at least once, laughing and saying it was because we were putting our all into it. And me, when straightening that right leg out behind I kept slamming my knee into the ice. And today my knee is a lovely melange of colors.
Oh, and the stones are 40 pounds and liked to freeze to the ice.
Aiming was a bit of a joke for us – because we were brand new and because the Ned rink is sloped. Like playing pool on an unlevel table. The “skip” is the captain and calls where the shooter is supposed to throw each rock. The students were split into two teams and the teacher skipped for both teams. “Red, send that stone right here, no spin, a lot of speed to bump this blue stone out.”
There was one time that I aimed PERFECTLY, exactly where the skip called. I know because I was laid out with my cheek almost on the ice watching the line. And then it curled – not because I spun it but because of the rink slope. Grr! I guess that’s why it’s called curling and not straightening.
But if shooting was hard, sweeping was almost harder! Try walking at a brisk stroll on ice, trying to keep your balance while leaning hard on a broom and sweeping. I fell many times. At least I have plenty of experience with falling on ice so didn’t hurt myself. In fact, I was complimented by several on the grace of my falls.
By the way, none of us were sweeping hard enough to create the water that’s supposed to make the stone go further. But we were outside, and it was snowing all day. So sweeping was very literal, mainly about getting snow out of the way. And practice, I suppose.
We played five “ends” (kind of like innings in baseball) and my red team lost 5-1. But we had fun! They took pictures of our class as twelve was the most they’ve ever had. That’s what happens when you get an article in the paper! Next weekend is the last for their season, and their club will have the final tourney.
So for those that don’t think curling is physically demanding, I submit as evidence not only my colorful knee but my aching thighs. I don’t think my legs have hurt this hard since my last 14er.