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Curling – A First-Timer’s Story

Swedish curlers at Olympics 2010

You won’t get as good as the Swedish national curling team anytime soon – but you can have as much fun as they do.

Curling seems like a sport out of time and place in Arizona. So explain, then, about 50 people who have never curled before trooping to an ice rink near the McDowell Mountains on a Saturday night to try it.

The crowd includes couples. Hipsters. Corporate cliques. Athletes. Couch potatoes.

Coyotes Curling Club members lead them all during a Learn to Curl session. They divulge the history of curling. They demonstrate the techniques, the critical points of the rules and the inherent sportsmanship. Soon, the cat’s purr rumble of 40-pound hunks of polished granite sliding down ice fills the air. Next come the exultations of first-time curlers hitting milestones.

And we hit many tonight … not sprawling on the ice when we release a rock. Getting our first shots to the Hog Line. Putting our first stone into the house. And, for me (shameless bragging, I know), launching a stone 146 feet down the sheet to settle right onto “the button” – that’s curling’s version of a bull’s-eye or a hole-in-one.

I didn’t do it alone. This is a team sport. My teammates, on the instruction of one of our other teammates, swept the ice in front to make the stone go further. The teammate who told them to sweep also told me where to aim, and what direction to spin my rock.

My role – the skip. I’m the last to throw. And for all throws but my own, it’s me telling when to sweep, how hard, where to throw, what spin to put on the rock.

I figured that, since I’d watched the movie “Men With Brooms” about a dozen times, I had a slightly less-vague idea of the game. But this was my first time touching a curling stone. The end result was a low score, but in our favor: We walked off with a 2-0 victory. My team went berserk when we put our first rock in “the house,” the series of concentric circles that marks a scoring position.

Let me leave you with a few parting thoughts:

  • I know what most people think of curling. Every time the winter Olympics come around, people wrinkle their noses and say it’s not a sport. Go to a Learn to Curl session somewhere, anywhere, and tell me if it changes your mind.
  • Curlers love to introduce people to their sport. They welcome beginners, and they are part of the reason why you will have fun if you try curling.
  • Phoenix-area curlers are trying really hard to get the area’s first dedicated curling sheet. Now, they only have hockey rinks. A real curling sheet means a flatter, truer surface … and more intensity.
  • A little fun – The Swedish women’s curling team picked a song from the metal band Hammerfall as their official team song for the 06 Olympics. Hammerfall – being the cheerful Swedish dudes they are – invited the team to help them shoot a new version of the video. See it below.
Final thought: This is the second time I’ve tried something entirely new and written about it. Got an idea for something off-beat that I should try? Let me know and I’ll take a crack if it’s remotely feasible. 

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