Have you ever turned on the Winter Olympics and asked yourself, “What is going on right now? Why are these people playing shuffleboard on ice with brooms?”
“The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and even James Bond have all poked fun at this traditional Scottish sport.
I’m talking about curling, of course. And it’s harder than it looks.
The first time I picked up a baseball bat and swung at a ball in the batting cages, it felt natural.
The first time I crouched down in the blocks, grabbed the rock with my right hand, the crutch (for novices who haven’t graduated to the broom) with my left, put my left foot into the Teflon slider and pushed off, I felt like a seventh-grader standing in the corner of the school dance while avoiding eye contact with everyone.
Imagine crouching down like you’re ready to blast off for your fastest 100-meter dash, only you’re wearing two different shoes — one that grips the surface perfectly and one that slides like the Jamaican bobsled team.
I never thought I would sweat in near-freezing temperatures, but that’s exactly what happened next as I was instructed to sweep.
When each curler throws the rock, two of their teammates must sprint on the ice with it and sweep vigorously ahead of it to reduce friction and propel the rock forward.
After doing this four times in a row I doubled over and was ready to call it a day.
Embarrassment was the norm at the “learn to curl” event hosted by the Wine Country Curling Club in Roseville.
Formed in 2006, the club boasts about 90 members, each of whom doesn’t fail to charm you with their friendly demeanors and good-natured competition.
Unfortunately for the club ,though, they aren’t yet big enough to own their own ice, meaning they have to rent from Skatetown in Roseville, which doesn’t necessarily consider them a priority.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that curling requires a different kind of ice than hockey or figure skating, forcing the club to rent extra time to set up and take down the playing area.
For Bob Kuhl, my instructor and the president of the club, the goal is dedicated ice by the year 2020. He envisions a club with full-time curling ice, locker rooms, a viewing area and a bar.
Oh yes, the bar is a big part of curling. I was informed just before my first game that the winners buy afterward, leading to my team’s disappointing result of actually winning.
Furthermore, the club does have “Wine Country” in its name for a reason: Every Labor D weekend they host a Bonspiel, a four-day tournament that features chartered buses running back and forth from the curling area in Roseville to a wine-tasting at Lakeside Beverages in Granite Bay.
“Anybody who knows a curler can come,” Kuhl said. “Or if you know someone who knows a curler you can come. Or if you know someone who knows someone who knows a curler you can come. We’re pretty open about it.”
This year’s event is expected to draw about 250 people, including four former Olympians, two of whom — Debbie McCormick and Jessica Schultz — competed at the 2014 Sochi Games in February.
“How many times in sports do you get to play against an Olympian when you’re just starting?” Kuhl wonders out loud.
He’s right. Even if you’re just headed out on a Sunday morning to curl with some friendly strangers or if you’re competing against the best in the world, it truly is an invigorating experience.
Just don’t think that it’s going to be easy.