Amid one frigid, dreary winter, a friend texted me with a creative way to take advantage of the local pond being frozen: “We should try curling.” Ill-equipped for the niceties of a sport that dates to the 1500s in Northern Europe, we improvised with milk jugs filled with frozen water and push brooms. It was fun, but we had a lot to learn.
Curling is similar to shuffleboard and bocce, but played on a sheet of ice by teams who can influence the action. Players slide heavy stones at a target, assisted by sweepers who polish the ice with brooms to affect their paths. Had we outfitted properly, our stones would have been made of granite, weighed between 38 to 44 pounds and looked like oversized hockey pucks with handles. With a twist before release the stones can be made to curl, hence the sport’s name.
The game is better known in the great white north, but since Americans won Olympic gold in 2018 “curling take up in the U.S. has been huge,” says Mark Callan of Kay’s Curling, a Scottish company that’s been making stones since 1851. Kay’s sells them to the U.S. for about $550 per stone, not including shipping. To test the ice, join one of the more than 200 curling clubs listed by the U.S. Curling Association. Most play on indoor rinks.
Action may sound slow, but Chris Lue, of Connecticut, reports that he and his wife were so riveted by watching the Olympics that they immediately signed up for a “learn to curl” program.
The one thing my friend and I got right about the very social game is we brought beverages. However, the tradition of “broomstacking” (laying down your implements for a drink) is usually done after the match. Our primitive outdoor approach did have one advantage: we were able to smoke cigars while we played.