Jan/Feb
2018

Curling Sweeps the Globe

Written by Holly Galbus
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From the Gangneung Curling Centre in South Korea to the Rochester Recreation Center

There’s a growing interest in Rochester for the sport of curling, a game often referred to as “chess on ice.” The Curling Club of Rochester formed in August 2017 with a kickoff event attended by more than 100 people. 

 

Kelsey Schuder, board president of the club and curling instructor, says there is great interest in the sport of curling locally, but what is needed is a dedicated curling ice facility, a place where participants can play on ice prepared specifically for the game. 

CURLING FOR ALL AGES

Schuder says the reasons for the sport’s gaining popularity are numerous. “Literally anyone can curl,” she says, “even before the age of 6. And I know some 90-year-olds who play. Also participants do not need to be athletically inclined to play.” 

But perhaps the biggest reason many curlers cite for their devotion to the sport is what is known as “the spirit of curling,” the competition brewed with kindness, sportsmanship and equality. The sense of community the sport builds is integral to the game. Players shake hands at the beginning and end of the game, wish each other “good curling” and at game’s end, enjoy the traditional broomstacking, which is a time to put away the brooms and sit down together.

HISTORY OF CURLING

Curling is one of the oldest team sports, originating in Scotland in the 16th century. It became an official Olympic sport in 1998 in Nagano, Japan. The sport is very popular in Canada; it is the most televised women’s sport in that country. In the U.S., Wisconsin and Minnesota have the most curling enthusiasts. 

Rochester had a local curling club from 1972 to 2002. The group, organized by Rochester Parks and Recreation, initially curled in a barn at the fairgrounds—not an ideal venue—but they then moved to the Rochester Recreation Center. Interest grew and for a number of years there were eight teams playing three nights a week. Because the ice was primarily for hockey, not curling, the enthusiastic curlers began to travel to Owatonna and Wisconsin, where there are dedicated ice facilities, and the club slowly ceased activity in Rochester. 

THE HOW-TO OF CURLING 

The game is played by two teams of four players on a sheet of ice. Players take turns sliding 44-pound stones toward a targeted area, or “the house,” 150 feet away.  Each team “throws” eight stones, and the team closest to the center after all the stones are delivered will score the points. The stone rotates as it goes down the ice, and so players sweep the ice to change the speed and direction of the stone, bringing it closer to the target area. The “skip,” or team captain, stands in the house and calls the strategy to other players on the team. A typical game is 90 minutes in duration.

CURL ENTHUSIASTS

Barbara Amundson, retired Rochester attorney, says curling was a big part of her life growing up in Saskatchewan, Canada. A competitive curler from age 15 until her mid-30s, her team competed at the Canadian Winter Games and the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship. She recently returned to the ice, participating in the club’s first practice at the Rec Center. “It was good to get on the ice,” she says. “It’s fresh air and exercise and social. I’m pleased to see the interest in Rochester.”

Curling Club of Rochester member Catherine Hebert began curling 10 years ago in Wisconsin at a fundraising event she attended with her mom. They both learned to curl that day and curling continues to be a favorite family activity. “I like the camaraderie and social components of curling,” she says.

Curling Club of Rochester meets Sundays from 7-11 p.m. at the Rochester Recreation Center. A winter league plays in January and February, with playoffs possible in March. To receive updates on club activities visit curlrochester.com.

 Holly Galbus is a Rochester freelance writer.