Monday, September 29, 2008


So what is curling, you ask? I know it's easy to make fun of, but it really is a great sport. It has been described as shuffleboard on ice with the strategy of chess.

I went to my first out-of-town bonspiel this past weekend in Bowling Green, Ohio. There were seven of us from our Knoxville club that made the trip up. I curled on a team with Kerry Cholka, Dennis Laney, and Sandra Takata.

Here are a few pictures from the weekend. I've tried to explain some of what is going on.

Each team member delivers two stones in each end (an "inning"). You have a slider on one foot and push yourself out of the hack with the other foot, using your broom to stabilize you. You and the stone are moving together, and you release it with a slight twist to allow it to curl, or curve, as it slows down. The stones are made of granite and weigh 42 pounds each.

The team's skip is at the other end of the ice calling the shot. Kerry is giving me an aim point based on where she wants the stone to end up. Only one team scores per end, and it's the team with the rock closest to the center of the house (the concentric circles). You score a point for each rock that you have in the house that's closer to the center than your opponent's closest rock.

Sweepers help get the stone down the ice. Sweeping the ice keeps the stone from slowing down, and there are two reasons to sweep. One is for distance -- sweeping can make a stone go about ten feet further than it would on its own; the other is for line -- the stone curls as it slows down, so if you keep it from slowing down it won't curl as much. You have to balance the two. Sandra and I are sweeping Dennis' shot.

Curling is definitely a team sport; it takes all four people to get a rock where you want it. Here are two pictures that show all four of us. Notice in the second one that vice-skip Sandra is skipping when Kerry delivers.

Strategy is a huge part of curling. Here's a typical strategy session for our team -- Kerry and Sandra figuring out the call while Dennis and I are waiting, talking, and laughing!

Some more strategizing while waiting for the other team's shot.

The scoreboards show the score across the middle row, and the end numbers are hung above and below. The board on the left shows red 5, blue 1. On the right, we're blue and are getting beat 3 to 1.

Here's the Bowling Green rink. It's dedicated curling ice, so there's no hockey or skating.

By tradition, the curlers are bagpiped onto the ice for the finals.

Dennis and I are sweeping hard to get the stone where we want it. I'm thinking this is a fast shot to take out an opponent's rock not in the picture. There's some definite speed to the picture based on the blur, what our legs are doing (I take big sideways steps when moving fast) and how far out front my broom is. We would be sweeping for line to keep the stone going straight for the other rock.

Sandra delivering.

Kerry delivering. She uses a stabilizer instead of a broom.

Dennis delivering.

Me delivering.

Dennis and me waiting between shots.

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