By Jessica Steinhoff | Photo courtesy of Steve Brown
Can you yell? Can you sweep? Can you strategize like a pro? If you answered yes, you can excel at curling, a sport that involves sliding granite stones across an ice sheet.
Curling is a cousin of shuffleboard and boules, with elements of billiards and darts. Two teams take turns sliding 44-pound stones called “rocks” toward a target known as a “house.” Each player “throws” a rock twice per inning, otherwise known as an “end.”
In addition to being fun, curling is beloved for its accessibility and camaraderie. Just ask Steve Brown, a three-time U.S. men’s curling champ who competed in four world championships, coached the U.S. Paralympic team and raised two Olympic curlers with his wife, Diane, also a champion curler. Off the ice, they founded Steve’s Curling Supplies, a local family business that has equipped curlers with shoes, brooms and more for over 40 years.
“Curling is a lifelong sport that attracts people of all ages and economic backgrounds. There are 8-year-old kids competing in junior leagues and people in their 80s playing in senior leagues,” he explains, “and you might have a farmer, a schoolteacher and a judge on the same team.”
Plus, there’s a lot more to curling than most people expect.
More to Curling
“People are often surprised to learn how much strategy and aerobic exercise are involved,” Brown says. “But one of the best parts is the social aspect. After playing, everyone shakes hands, then sits around discussing the game and having a good time.”
If you give curling a whirl, you’ll become a part of a colorful local history. Curling made its way to UW-Madison almost 130 years ago. In a letter to university president Thomas C. Chamberlin, Milwaukee Curling Club member John Johnston described the slippery sport as a “scientific, high toned, healthy game” that college students must try. Before long, the UW Curling Club was born.
Madison Curling Club
These days, the Madison Curling Club is the epicenter of this pastime, hosting tournaments known as “bonspiels” and Learn2Curl clinics. Its open houses are another way to get acquainted with the sport. An expert explains etiquette, basic rules and strategies, and rock-sliding techniques. You’ll even learn how and why curlers use brooms to coax the rock toward the house. Following a safety overview, you can apply your new knowledge on the ice. The club supplies all the necessary equipment, but you’ll need to wear flat, rubber-soled shoes.
If you fall in love with curling, consider joining a club for further instruction and game play. The Madison Curling Club boasts certified, award-winning instructors and hundreds of potential teammates. For a small-town curling experience, check out the Arlington Curling Club or the Poynette Curling Club, which offer leagues, bonspiels and more than a century of lore.
Local Curling Clubs
Watch the Championships
Want to watch the sport before you try it? Attend the crème de la crème of curling events: the International Curling Fellowship of Rotarians World Championships. Taking place at the Madison Curling Club March 27-April 3, it’s likely to feature Olympians and other elite curlers. curlingrotarians.com