Trying out curling for the first time at Unionville Curling Club.
With the Winter Olympics recently finishing, curling is yet again in the spotlight. Even Mr. T got in on the act.
Back in the UK, it once again represented one of our best medal hopes, as a bunch of broom-wielding Scottish women shouted at some stones sliding around on the ice.
Here in Canada, where sometimes it seems that the country is encased in ice for 6 months of the year, curling is also a big deal. So in late September we headed up to Unionville Curling Club in Markham to give curling a go ourselves.
Getting ready to go out on the ice
In late September, it’s still quite warm in Canada, so entering a refrigerated curling rink can be a bit of a shock! So while warm clothes are the first must, the second was to put some pink, rubber ‘slip-on grippers’ over the soles of our shoes to help us move around on the ice without falling over.
Not falling over and sweeping
The first lesson was to be feel comfortable walking around on the ice, and confident that you’re not going to fall over. With the rubber slip-on grippers, it’s actually very easy. From there, it was time to practice some sweeping. Sweeping ahead of a sliding stone helps reduce friction, therefore allowing it to travel further, as well as straightening the trajectory and removing any debris on the rink. So there we all were, in two long lines, sweeping rigorously on the ice while walking to practice the technique. It is actually really hard work, giving us a new found appreciation of how fit you need to be to be a curler!
Delivering the stone
While sweeping is one of the main aspects of the game, another is the delivery of the stone, so it can slide down the rink. To practice this, we first got comfortable getting low on the ice – with one knee down and balancing ourselves with our broom in one hand. Then it was time to slide the stone for real.
Taking it in turns, we placed a slippery ‘slider sole’ underneath one foot and lowered ourselves down into the hack, which is like curling’s equivalent of a sprinter’s starting block. With one hand balancing on the broom, and the other controlling the stone, we pushed off – the aim being to slide along the ice on our slider sole and then to release the stone.
In reality this is much tougher than it looks, as you have to combine balance, positioning, pushing off and directing the stone all at the same time. Some people fell over (looking at you Emma), while for most people the stone barely made it halfway along the rink!
Emma shows us how it’s done in our video below.
With that skill partially mastered, it was time for a mini-game. Now we had to try and slide our stone all the way down the rink and get them as close to the centre of the rings at the opposite end. This extra effort caused some other people to fall over when delivering the stone (looking at me), and for many, the rings at the opposite end remained a distant dream. Eventually, by the end of the session and with a bit more practice, we could finally deliver the stone to the opposite end without falling over 🙂
Curling might look like a strange sport on first appearances but we learned that it is good fun, and we are glad that we were able to try it out, although I don’t think you’ll be seeing us lining up for Team GB at the next Winter Olympics!
Thanks to Unionville Curling Club, who put on free, 1 hour sessions during the year to try out curling. You can check the latest opportunities on their website.