"The competitiveness and exercise during curling makes for a great two
hours," says curler Steve Quinn.
Are you in the house or out of the house? If you're curling, being
IN the house is definitely a good thing!
Curling is a game of strategy played on an ice surface. It is a team sport.
Players slide "rocks" down a sheet of ice and try to get their rocks in the
"house." As the rock slides along, team members use brooms to sweep in front
of the rock to help it along if it appears to be going too slow.
CURLING FACT: The name curling comes from the old English verb "to curr,"
which means to growl.
Curling is a sport usually played indoors in an arena. Some curling rinks
are stand-alone facilities. Others share arenas with hockey rinks. Usually,
the area where you curl is cold.
Most curlers belong to curling clubs and join teams. The environment is
social, friendly and competitive at the same time.
CURLING FACT: A curling team consists of four players: lead, second, third
and skip. The skip is the team captain.
According to Rick Patzke with U.S.A. Curling, there are about 15,000 curlers
in the U.S., and about 1.5 million worldwide. Canada probably has the most,
with somewhere around 1.2 million curlers.
The basic idea of curling is to slide your rocks as close to the center
of the house as possible. It's kind of like aiming for a bull's-eye.
The goal is to end up with more of your rocks closer to the center of the
house (the button) than the other team's rocks.
CURLING FACT: The rocks are made from special granite quarried in Scotland
and other parts of the world, and weigh a standard 42 pounds.
Curling is a game steeped in tradition. There have been a few changes made
in recent years, both in the way the game is played and in the equipment.
At one time, competitive curling was a game of "takeout." That means the
lead would slide a rock into the house, and the opposing player would then
knock the rock out. But the rules were changed about eight years ago.
"Each team's two lead rocks, if delivered in a guard position, must
not be removed by a lead," says curler Carla Lynch. "This allows a lead to
place two guards, and then the second can put a rock behind the guard. The
second can remove the guards, if desired."
Another big change in recent times was the change from brooms to brushes.
"About 35 years ago, everyone used corn brooms," says Lynch. "They left debris
on the ice and were very difficult to sweep with effectively.
"Hog hair and nylon bristled brushes replaced brooms and were used for
many years. They could also leave debris on the ice as the brush heads wore
out and shed bristles, but they were much easier to use and many more people
were very effective with them.
"About five years ago, a fabric-covered pad was introduced. They leave
no debris on the ice. The pad is on the end of the handle just like the brush
head. At about the same time, angled brush and pad heads were introduced to
make sweeping more effective."
CURLING FACT: A typical game of curling lasts about two hours.
Compared to a lot of other sports, curling is relatively inexpensive. Joining
a curling club will cost you anywhere between $100 and $400 a year. Then all
you really need is a good pair of clean, rubber-soled shoes. Good runners
are fine. Clubs supply the rocks and usually have brooms you can use.
"Once you've decided you're hooked, a new broom costs about $50,"
says curler Doug Anderson. "Special curling shoes can also be bought for about
$100. Both brooms and shoes last several years. Another piece of equipment
is a slider [usually made of Teflon] which goes over one foot to provide a
graceful motion when delivering the rock."
CURLING FACT: It is widely believed that curling originated in Scotland
sometime in the 16th century. Scottish immigrants later made the game popular
in Canada. The sport is now popular around the world.
You don't really need any special skills to curl. But you should be
reasonably fit. You generally need good knees and a good back. Furious sweeping
as the rock slides down the ice can easily leave you out of breath. The 42-pound
rock isn't picked up, so no heavy lifting is required.
Physically challenged people can curl, depending on the challenge. A person
in a wheelchair would likely not be able to curl. For people with back or
knee problems who have difficulty crouching down, there is a relatively new
stick-like device available. People use the stick "in the hack" (the area
where the rock is delivered down the ice).
Lynch has even curled with a person who couldn't see! "I have curled
with a man who is legally blind. He played lead. The second would look to
see where the skip held his broom [the target] and would place his broom near
enough to the blind curler so he could see its position relative to the near
CURLING FACT: The length of the sheet from backboard to backboard is 146
feet. The width of the sheet from sideline to sideline is 14'2".
Curling is an amateur sport. There are no professional curlers. The only
employment possible would be in areas associated with curling.
You could, of course, build your own curling club. On a much smaller scale,
you could work at a curling club, perhaps maintaining the ice. You could also
open up or work in a retail shop selling curling equipment.
CURLING FACT: The use of brooms and brushes came about because curling
was first played outdoors on frozen rivers and lakes. When a player delivered
a stone, his teammates cleared the snow from its path by sweeping.
Curling is a safe sport. Serious injuries are rare. But walking on ice
has its dangers, and injuries do occur. The most dangerous situation is when
someone slips and hits their head on the ice.
"Be careful and don't make any sudden moves," says curler Craig Callum.
"You are on a slippery sheet of ice and it hurts when you fall on it. Also,
falling on a rock hurts. Falling on a broom hurts. In my four years, I have
seen a broken ankle, a cracked rib, and several head injuries involving bleeding."
Callum also points out the importance of a proper warm-up. "The stretching
is very important. The ice area is kept in the low-to-mid 30s, I think, and
muscles tighten up easier in the cold. In the first game of my second year,
I rushed my warm-up and pulled a leg muscle, which took the rest of the season
to get over."
The best way to get started curling is to go to a local club and express
interest. Most clubs welcome beginners. Wear loose clothing, a clean pair
of runners, and be prepared to learn how to play the game. Usually, this will
take less than two hours.
CURLING FACT: Bonspiel is a curling term for competition.
In curling, practice likely won't make you perfect, but it will make
you better at the game. Once you've joined a club, try and play with
experienced players as much as possible. This is probably the best way to
learn. Many clubs also offer instructional programs.
"With an hour or two of group lecture, demonstration, and instruction,
one can play a game," says Lynch. "Most new curlers start in a league with
just this much instruction. During the game, the new player's teammates
teach him or remind him of rules and make suggestions on how to improve his
delivery. New curlers to our club are given a booklet describing the game,
telling rules and etiquette, and informing them of our club's rules."
United States Curling Association
1100 CenterPoint Dr.
P.O. Box 866
Informational site with dozens of curling links
This site offers event information and free e-mail
In the Hack
This site contains curling news and shopping
International Curling Information Network Group
Links to related sites from all over the world