Curling has a rich history—in Europe and Canada. In the United States it is only just beginning to find its way into the hearts of sports enthusiasts.
While curling has been popular in Canada and Europe for centuries; the United States sports fan is relatively new to this seemingly quirky sport. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that curling became a thriving sport in the U.S.; and even then perhaps because of the close proximity to Canada, only in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and New York.
It would be another century before curling began coming of age. In 1966 seven nations founded the International Curling Federation. It is now called the World Curling Federation and has 45 member nations. Slowly interest in curling gained momentum and in 1998 finally made its full medal debut in the Nagano Olympic Games.
It was the Salt Lake City winter games in 2002 that sparked the interest of the American people. Surprisingly, curling events were a television hit. In Torino, in 2006, the American curling team won their first-ever Olympic medal, sparking further interest. According to the United States Curling Association (USCA), during the 2006 Olympics, their website received 100 million verifiable hits, with a record 12.5 million on February 16 of that year. As of 2008 statistics, USCA now has more than 13,000 curlers and 135 clubs across the nation. According to other sources, curling was the third-most searched topic on MSN.com during the Turino Games.
Basics of Curling
As is often the case when viewing an unfamiliar sport, curling may seem confusing for the novice. Foremost, curling is a game of strategy much like chess. It is played between two teams with four players on each side. The teams alternate with one player sliding (throwing) a stone (rock) down the ice towards a target called “the house.” Each team also has two sweepers and a fourth member who calls out instructions (called the Skip). The sweepers use brooms to brush the ice in front of the stone so it will travel further and straighter.
In the Olympic Games, a game consists of 10 rounds called an end. Each team member throws two stones down the runway or sheet, with members and teams alternating shots for a total of 16 rocks. After all rocks have been delivered, the side with the stone closest to the button (middle) within the house receives one point for each rock that is closer than the other team's. When distance is in question, a measurement is taken to determine which rock is closer. If no rocks are in the house or both rocks are equal in distance, the end is considered a draw and no points are awarded to either team. Games do not finish in draws so additional ends may occur.
Equipment for Curling is Specialized and Costly
Though there is not a lot of equipment needed for curling; the equipment requiredis quite specialized, as to be expected. As with the sport of hockey, curling had its beginnings on outside rinks, but was moved inside once sanctioned competition began. The ice is layered gradually to prevent pockets the stone might collapse. The process is rather time consuming.
The stones or rocks that are used for curling are made from special granite called Ailsite which comes from AilCredit: Photo by Andrew Turnersa Craig, an island off of Scotland. The stone weighs approximately 42 pounds and is 36 inches in circumference. On top it has a handle which the curlers use for throwing the stone. On the bottom the stones have a hollow-grind that is crucial in making their curve. Luckily, most curling halls have their own stones because stones can cost about $10,000 for a set of eight stones. Stones will last for many years when maintained in good condition.
The brooms used for curling are made of horse hair, hog hair or synthetic hair. Depending on what type is used, brooms will last not more than a season. Some brooms will not last an entire game in competition. Brooms can cost between $42 and $75. Clubs usually supply brooms for recreational use.
Get Ready to Curl
Though curling clubs usually provides the stones and brooms for curling, participants will need their own additional equipment which mainly consists of the attire for curling.
An important piece of attire, only considered as part of the equipment for curling, is the shoes. In competition, curling shoes are fitted with a rubber sole or glider on the bottom. Competition shoes can cost up to $250; however, for recreational purposes, rubber soled shoes and gliders that fit on the shoe can be used. Gliders sell for about $20 or less.
Next up, some gloves and fashionable pants. If the club is warm or the curler isn’t bothered by cold, gloves are not necessarily a requirement. A good pair of gloves can cost about $35. Most curlers wear a stretch type of pant; something that is comfortable when bending and squatting. Shirts vary from sweatshirts to team shirts. It too, must be fit comfortably and allow movement of arms.
Fashion sense isn’t always on the curlers’ minds, but statements are made as evident by the colorful pattern worn by the 2010 Norwegian curlers. The important thing is to have fun, learn a new sport, and appreciate the abilities and strategic minds of others. And remember, the most important aspect of the sport of curling is the spirit of the game—contestants are expected to display good sportsmanship at all times. At the finish, teams cordially shake hands and acknowledge the winners.
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