A Hack, Skip and Sweep Away from Understanding Curling

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Marika KrauseIt seemed far-fetched. A college friend of mine invited me to watch him curl at a San Jose ice rink. Mike and I went to school in Colorado where blizzards snowed us in, and yet he waited until he moved to the sunny Bay Area to pick up the sport. Though- I have to admit his passion peaked my interest.

All I knew about curling was what I’d seen during the Winter Olympics. A team of four people with brooms yell loudly and care deeply about how a rock with a handle glides across the ice. I was excited when Mike called and invited me to watch them “throw a few stones.”

Reporter Bob Redell was also there doing a story about the Curling club’s open house. One of our directors, Gabrielle, also happens to be an avid curler. Actually, she only picked up the sport about six months ago. That’s how long it takes to get you hooked.

I watched Mike gracefully launch himself from the “hack.” It’s a rubber pad where the curlers stabilize themselves before throwing. One of his shoes has a teflon bottom, so he slides forward with the stone he’s launching… and all at once the cute little brooms made sense. Two players furiously “sweep” the ice in front of the stone, melting a path and gliding the stone to the “house.” The house is the one of the targets painted at each end of the rink. I’ve yet to master how curling is scored, but it depends on where the rock lands in the house.

You’d think a sport involving sweeping and rocks gliding across ice would be quiet. Think again! There were four people just showing us how it works.. and they rocked the tiny rink screaming “Sweep, Harder, Faster, Hurry, Keep Going…” A “Skip” leads the team with verbal cues in guiding the stone to the house… and the other members yell just to cheer each other on.

One day I’ll master the terminology. The team kept making jokes about what I heard as “intern.” I was imagining some college student following the Skip with a cup of coffee, offering to make copies. Turns out “in-turn” is the way the stone curls inward.

I hope to learn more about the sport soon. The Bay Area Curling Club is offering a new round of classes starting October 31st…

After all, I’ll have to know when to yell “Harder!” or “Let it Curl!” when cheering on my friend Mike or Gabrielle in the first Bay Area Curling team to make it to the Olympics.

Marika Krause
NBC11 Writer

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