When it comes to wintertime activities on ice, there aren’t many that I’m even willing to try.
Ice skating? I have a hard time standing up on a pair of skates, even if you were to give me a balancing apparatus, (er hockey stick), to keep me upright.
Ice fishing? It’s too dang cold out there, and I always feel the fish see me coming and deftly swim the other way in a direction opposite my lures.
Curling? It’s a little like bowling, a little like shuffleboard, and a little like sweeping up after a party... and I’ve done all three. Now there’s a sport that looks easy enough.
After having tried the first two winter sports -- and not having had much success in either -- I figured how difficult can it be to curl?
Last week the Cape Cod Curling Club of Falmouth opened its doors for a Media Day to let us see just how easy (read: difficult) the sport really is. And to coincide with the Winter Olympics currently being held in PyeongChang, where curling has been prominently featured, the timing couldn’t be any better.
The one-hour “turbo tour,” as they called it, introduced newbies to the basic strategy and skills when it comes to learning how to slide and deliver the stone.
For those who know less about curling than I do -- and I assure you there can’t be many -- the stone is the round device that you glide on the ice. That is, after you have learned to glide and slide yourself into position to make such a delivery.
“Most people who attempt curling find out it’s harder to learn than they thought,” said Jeanie Yaroch, who is publicity director for the club. “The experts make it look pretty easy on TV.”
I was placed on a team of four with several other members of the local media, which is the standard number for a curling game.
Of the four there is the “lead” who glides the stone along the ice sheet; the “second” and the “vice” who both sweep the ice to build up speed toward the target; and the “skip” who directs the two sweepers. Each side throws four stones.
The stone -- a 42-pound chunk of granite -- glides along a surface of pebbled ice which was described by Yaroch as “similar to the surface of a basketball.” The sweepers reduce the friction, allowing the stone to glide better along the ice.
When it comes to scoring, the object is to get as many stones as possible closer to the center than your opponent.
If you’ve watched the sport on TV, perhaps the wackiest part of the sport is the two sweepers who feverishly operate the squeegee-like sweepers.
“The sweeping pulls the stone along, so if you’re trying to hold the particular line or trying to bring the stone further, you want to sweep it,” said Yaroch. “You get a sense whether it’s going to be long or short.”
Teams play eight ends, similar to innings of a baseball game, where both teams have the opportunity to score with their stones in the target.
Without question, the most difficult part of the sport -- in my opinion -- is the delivery. Placing your drive foot in a starting block, you glide out trying to keep your sliding foot ahead while getting ready to release the rock toward the target, hoping to not spill over onto the ice surface.
“A lot of people may think it’s easy. It’s not easy,” said Falmouth High sophomore Anna Cenzalli, a real crackerjack who will be heading to the Under-18 Nationals in Bemidji, Minnesota, next week.
Cenzalli has been at it since she was five years of age.
“I play with people of all ages; with a 95-year-old and I’ve played with a four-year-old,” she said. “It’s good for your brain to keep you thinking, and it’s also good for your endurance. It’s just fun.”
Perhaps more than anything, I would call curling a very humbling sport.
Indeed, it looks a heckuva lot easier on TV than it really is. But, it is also a fun activity.
“Curling is a great social sport and at this club in particular,” said Yaroch. “And if people want to get out and make the winter go by quickly, meet some friends, and have some laughs, then this is a great sport for them.”
Contact Mike Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.