Throwing Stones in Hot Pants (aka, Learning to Curl from a Pro!)

Curling Brooms and Stones


Pre-Game Practice, 2006 Winter Olympics

curling is my favorite sport. ever since catching this initially-odd game on tv in canada while recovering from lasik in 2000 (medical tourism!), i was in love. i went to a round-robin game (=cheap) at the 2006 winter olympics in turin while i was a student in germany, and in 2010 went to vancouver for the gold medal mens game.

on the way to the airport for vancouver i dropped my dog off at the doggie hotel. i told the person working at the front desk where i was headed and she mentioned that there was a local curling club! WHO KNEW. i thought only those in northern climes had such things. she had just started participating and encouraged me to try a lesson or two.

fast forward to over two years later and i still hadn’t gone to one of their intro lessons because i’ve been lazy, chicken, or a combination of both.

earlier today, though, i got an email from them saying that christoffer svae, part of the silver-medaling norwegian team (that is, the team i saw lose, heh), was going to be there, giving the introductory lesson!

how could i say no, especially for $20?

(the following video is part of that 2010 gold medal game, canada’s turn while norway watches)

[flickr video=4398680925 show_info=true secret=717d7280fa w=600 h=338]

the lesson

i showed up at the oakland ice center pretty early (overestimated traffic) and thought i’d just wait around for people who looked like they knew what they were doing or carrying brooms or something. it wasn’t more than five minutes later that i saw someone walk in with a man wearing garish pants. yep. i knew they had to be the people to follow! by the time we began, there was a small group of 10 people, far fewer than the normal 40 or so that attend an intro class (likely because this was on a friday evening as opposed to the normal saturday afternoon). this was great — chris could teach us all!

we started with a question and answer period while the ice was being prepped, where we got to ask him questions about what life as a curler and an olympic athlete was like. i couldn’t keep my eyes off his loudmouth outfit! he was indeed the person responsible for selecting the famous pants for the team’s olympic uniform!

after the zamboni finished its rounds and they put the pebble on, we timidly made our way out on the ice. turns out i had nothing to be scared about. with the extra texture, you can practically run on it without falling (though, for liability reasons, i officially do not recommend it, or at least have a curling broom you can use as support).

he had us start out by learning how to push off from the hack (the thing that looks like starting blocks) with the broom resting on the ice perpendicular to us, then we moved up to pushing off with a stone and letting it go (i was so preoccupied with remaining upright i kept forgetting to deliver, heh). we then progressed to sweeping.

this. was. exhausting. it doesn’t look hard as a spectator, but let me tell you, i was out of breath after two sweeping runs down the sheet. granted, i’m in horrible shape, but not only is it difficult to maintain your balance and keep up with the stone as it’s barreling down, but add to that vigorous sweeping, and you end up pooped!

we ended the night by playing two games (well, really, two ends). the team i was on won both times! (go team yellow!)

if i decide to keep up with it, one thing i need to remember is to stay down after releasing the stone. try and stand up too quickly and you just lose balance. slow and steady wins the race! (err, means you don’t fall on your ass.) also wear thicker socks. by the end of the evening my toes were freezing!

i hope to see chris and the rest of the norway team, as well as some hot curling action, come 2014 in sochi!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdeZIyhe5YM?rel=0]

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