By MARK LORENTZ
It might not have the superstars of the NHL, the scouts looking for the next phenom, or the big TV contracts, but the sport of curling is making big waves even on a frozen pond.
The sport has been around since the 16th century, but it only really started to take off internationally when it became an official sport in 1998, at the Nagano Olympics. The rock, made from granite, weighs around 20 kilograms, slides down a sheet of ice 150 feet in length to the “house” and ideally stops on the centre point of the target.
“It’s easier said than done. Much like golf, people are surprised how hard it is,” said Spencer Anderson, who coaches children at the Galt Curling Club, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.
Anderson said there is always an increase in new members during Olympic years. The membership fee for adults comes in at $450 including tax per season (September to April), which allows you to play in a league as well as participate in practice times to master your skills.
“There’s no such thing as a natural born curler. There’s a lot of different things you do with your body in curling that you don’t do in other sports. That’s why yoga has really taken off in the curling community,” said Danielle Inglis, a former two-time Canadian Interuniversity Sport gold medallist in women’s curling.
Capital One has partnered with the Canadian Curling Association with the launch of their new program “Rocks and Rings.” The program started after the huge success of the Vancouver Olympic Games. As viewership peaked for the gold medal games, so too did kids’ interest in the sport.
Instructors bring all the equipment, from brooms to rocks, that are specifically made for indoor surfaces. The idea behind the program is to introduce children to the game of curling for free, before they go out to their local curling club and have to pay all the administration fees.
“One of the best parts about curling is how social a game it is. It’s friendlier than other sports, it’s known as a gentleman’s game,” said Inglis.
According to the Canadian Curling Association, approximately 653,000 people curl in this country. And it is more than a sporting event. It is a social gathering. When winter makes its way down and covers the land in an icy blanket of snow, life can be found at the local curling rink, especially in the midlands of Canada and in the Maritimes.
“Curling out there, you really notice it. People overall seem to be more knowledgeable about the sport and it draws a lot more people to the rink than here in Ontario,” Inglis said.
Curling is a game for young and old, for athletes and non-athletes, for the serious and not-so-serious. Skill levels and ages vary across every rink, which is especially true at the Galt Curling Club, where a man who turned 100 threw a rock down to the house.
It is not an expensive game to enjoy, requiring very little specialized equipment, especially when compared to other winter sports.
“The most expensive part of the game would be the shoes,” Inglis said. “You can get some for $75, all the way up to $300. Once your feet stop growing, those shoes can last a long time. I’ve had mine for eight years now.”
If you want to know what it’s like to “hurry hard,”make new friends and learn a new sport, visit www.galtcurlingclub.com for Cambridge and www.kwgranite.com for Kitchener/Waterloo.