(Allow me to preface this by saying that the sport of curling is not nearly as easy as it may appear when you watch it on tv.)
Curling, as a sport, generally runs under the radar of most Americans. Every four years, during the Winter Olympic Games, our country has the opportunity to get (re)acquainted with curling. Several of us within the Kansas City social networking scene followed curling with quite a bit of interest during these current Olympics, and had even discussed getting a group together for a KC curling meet-up. On this particular Sunday, the Kansas City Curling Club was offering a two-hour window of free instruction and demonstrations of curling.
The first thing to detail in this experience is that the ice surface we were on for this demonstration was not nearly as slick as what you expect for ice, and you have somewhat-decent traction in tennis shoes. Instruction began with learning foot placement on the hack (think of sprint runners launching themselves off the starting block). For a right-hander such as myself, the ball of the right foot would go in the left side of the hack. The left foot stays on the ice for weight placement. To learn balance, we started out using two rocks – one for each hand, weighing 42 pounds apiece.
After learning how to work with weight placement and balancing using the two rocks on a standard tennis shoe, we then placed a slider on the left (weight placement) foot. This virtually eliminates any sort of traction to the foot, and allows for a much longer slide off of the hack.
After several practice runs using the slider, the feel for the motions began to come together. The more comfortable I got with it, the further and smoother my launches off of the hack would become.
The next step is to lose the left-hand rock as a balancing tool, and switch to the broom. The left arm goes around and over the broom, with the handgrip not quite at the base of the broomstick. This allows the upper part of the broomstick to lay firm against the upper arm and shoulder area, and provide for proper balance.
Once we learned the fundamentals of balance and weight placement using the broom, and how to launch out of the hack, we then moved on to the skill behind the rock. Plenty of strategy is involved in the release of the rock, depending on whether you’re attempting to place the rock within the house or if you’re using the rock to take out an opponent’s already-placed rock. A release with the handle pointed forward throughout the release results in a straight slide for the rock. Pointing the handle to the 10 o’clock position and gradually rotating it to the 12 o’clock position upon release gives it a curl to the right after release. Conversely, pointing the handle to the 2 o’clock position and rotating it to the 12 o’clock position will give it a curl to the left. The curling team’s Skip, positioned down at the house, would give the thrower instruction as to exactly where they wanted the rock to be placed, and with what direction they wanted the rock to be curled.
Finally, we put all the pieces together and did several launches off the hack with attempts to direct the rock in different locations. This particular throw was a 10 o’clock release for a right curl attempt.
That concluded Curling 101 for yours truly. I walked away with nothing broken, the only bruising being on my left knee from the first part of my lesson (my confidence and my ego remained unbruised and intact). I would like to extend a hearty thanks to the KC Curling Club. Learning from them was a very fun and enjoyable experience, and I left with a smile on my face knowing I had a great time. If you would like to learn more about curling, or to check out the club in action, you can find them online at KCCurling.com.
Also, thanks to Amy Rogers for being my videographer for this demonstration, filming my journey and being fully prepared to hold any sort of blackmail in the event of epic failure on my part.