1.24.2015

Curling at the Saint Paul Curling Club, St. Paul, MN

I will admit it. It turns out while I know more than some, I didn't know much about the sport of curling. I thought for sure some bored, drunk Canadians threw stuff down a lake one winter's day, only to invent this Winter Olympic sport. I was dead wrong. I now know the truth about curling after the department I work in set-up a sweet little afternoon outing to the largest curling club in the United States, the St. Paul Curling Club ("SPCC"). 



We started out the day with some classroom time. We learned that, in fact, curling is a very old sport. The first documented matches were played in northern Scotland in 1548. Wow, from the country that also gave us golf. [Insert jokes about difficult sports with drinking as a backdrop here]. 

Though not quite as old as that, the history of the SPCC dates back (and I think the phrase "dates back is appropriate here) to 1888. People in St. Paul, MN were throwing "rocks" down the waterfront at Raspberry Island. In its more modern history, the building we played in was built in 1912, which is still a damn long time. They now have 2000 members, again, the largest in US and maybe the world.

It's also an impressive club, full of rich oak and mahogany. Okay, in truth, I don't know the species of their woodwork, but it looked damn nice and seemed like a place I would really like to spend some long winter days and evenings.


This is just the upstairs "classroom", which I think is really their party room. And yes, you can see all the sheet-action from up here too
'It's a big deal"
That looks like a comfy set of couches
After some instruction on the basics about how to play curling, which I won't bore you with, but can be read up HERE, we went down to the "sheets" (of ice) for some hands on lessons and to play some matches. Of course, first, we had to put on clean shoes and grab our brooms. Yes, that's right, brooms. Wait, if you don't know what even that is for... you do need to go to THIS LINK to get the gist of the sport. don't worry, it's a video, you don't have to read. 


You didn't even want to watch the video? Fine. In essence, 4-person teams are trying to slide 8, 42lb solid granite rocks down a sheet of ice, while keeping as many as they can within "the House". So, if all both teams did was slide all the rocks into the House, with none going foul or anything, you'd 16 big granite rocks in a 27' x 15' in area. That's a lot of rocks. 

And did I mention, this is all done on ice? You betcha! A big ole solid sheet of ice. It is not quite like a buttery smooth, freshly zamboni'd hockey rink ice, as it has a bit of an orange peel skin on top of the ice, but make no mistake about it, you're on ice. It's slippery. So try not to fall, run, slip, spill, or trip over the rocks. You could really make a bad day worse by not seeing where you're going and trip over a rock. Ouch. I did my best to keep my head on a swivel, but was admonished by the staff at least once about not sweeping in the right direction, which I understand was for my own safety.

This is actually two sheets, for playing two different games, simultaneously. Think of them like lawn bowling or real-bowling lanes. 
That fairly wide red line out in front of the House is called the Hog Line. You have to get your rock to go last this line for it to be in play. If not, it gets moved aside.
If you don't pass this line, you do not pass "Go" and do not collect $200




Here's a look at the implements of war... I mean, the rocks... (seriously, what is up with the Scots?!)
These are thrown down the sheet by one team in one round

So, above, is two teams worth of rocks. That little black mat is covering the spot on the ice you can push-off of during your turn and get some momentum for your "throw"
And here is their literal "broom closet"...

The brooms are used by the designated sweepers on each team to speed up and, I think if you're good at it, direct where and how fast the rock travels down the ice. By "sweeping" the ice in front of the rock, it creates a thin layer of water, which reduces friction and allows the rock to travel faster and farther. I know, it sounds like hog-wash, but I saw it work with my own eyes.

I won't even talk about how our team did or the scoring. I'll save that for my next visit and post. Everyone on the staff at the SPCC was very accommodating, to all of us, and I would go back in a heartbeat to try this sport again.



They even think about curling from the men's room. This window is right above the sink...




  

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