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Curling offers camaraderie and courtesy on ice

With no refs and an emphasis on fair play, curling is a sport apart

The goal of curling is to slide a rock across the sheet and place it closer to the button.


Are you weary of the vitriol coming from the internet? Embarrassed that your children regularly witness adults behaving badly on social media or TV? If you’re looking for an environment free of this negativity and a sport in which your entire family of varying ages and levels of athleticism may participate, consider your local curling club.

Yes, that curling. The one on ice, with brooms. But curling is also an Olympic sport that emphasizes courteous play and good, sportsmanlike behavior. Players call out their own errors. Self-policing is the norm, and referees are usually absent from games. (Imagine watching soccer or football without a referee!) The World Curling Federation Handbook states: “A true curler never attempts to distract an opponent, nor to prevent them from playing their best, and would prefer to lose rather than to win unfairly.”

And afterward, winners buy the losing team a round of drinks.

“Graceful winning is emphasized. There’s a real camaraderie,” says Joe Roberts, North Seattle’s Granite Curling Club president. He describes the members of the curling leagues as being “like one big family.”

As for newcomers, Roberts says, “It’s a sport that’s easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master. The basic mechanics of throwing the rock can be taught in about half an hour.” Longtime players focus not only on physical finesse and skill, but also on strategy. Good curlers anticipate future moves, which may explain why this sport is often known as chess on ice.

Curling shares similarities with shuffleboard but possesses its own unique jargon. The goal is to slide a “rock” (a 42-pound, polished piece of granite) across the pebbled ice surface (“the sheet”) and place it closer to the button (the center of the target) than the opposing team. Teammates known as sweepers apply pressure to the ice with brooms, which determines where the rock eventually comes to rest by slightly melting the ice.

The U.S. Curling Association estimates there are approximately 16,000 American curlers. The Granite Curling Club, established in 1951, is the only club of its kind in the state of Washington. The club offers a number of different leagues catering to a variety of age groups (some players are as young as 7) and levels of competitiveness, and it also hosts bonspiels, or tournaments, some of which attract curlers from all over the country as well as Canada.

Reading about curling cannot fully convey its delights. Consider booking a group session or taking the whole family (grandparents included) to an open house. Even those with back problems or who cannot crouch can participate using a special stick to deliver the rock. Dress warmly, learn the jargon (What’s not to love about a game that involves argot like hog line, hammer, biter and bonspiels?) and get ready for a good time. Your family may even be inspired to watch the U.S. Olympic curling team when they compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

curlingseattle.org, teamusa.org/USA-Curling, worldcurling.org

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