The next edition of my Canadian integration was attempting Curling. This sport has the reputation similar to golf elsewhere in the world, and you wouldn’t be completely incorrect in picturing retired people carrying the sport throughout Canada, however, it’s so much fun!
We had to travel south to Squamish to play where we had rented the rink for four hours. As they begin briefing us on the new terminology, explaining the rules of the 14 ends that make up a game, I wasn’t sure this was going to be long enough to understand, let alone master the technique to launch the rocks with any sort of technique.
With grippers on the soles of our shoes we could stand on the ice. When serving one foot wore a gripper, the other on a slider so you could propel your weight forward in the lunge type stance they make look so balanced. With the sweeper tucked under your opposite arm, you could counter yourself once you had launched the 44 pound rock. We all had a go at this challenging stance, before moving on to understand the role of the sweeper and skip. Whilst technique and balance was one element, what kept the game interesting was that you were never not playing. Alternating between the two teams, player one serves the first two rocks, player two serves three and four, both sweeping when not serving. Player four is the skip, directing the server on how to best direct their rock, player three the vice skip, taking over when the skip serves rocks seven and eight.
The sweeping turned out to be maybe the most physical, but also the most challenging position. Four hours certainly wasn’t enough to clock the difference between a rock hurtling through well beyond the house (think rings on a dart board) and one which would struggle to reach the line. By sweeping you could save or sabotage the rocks speed and direction. Not only that, the opposing skip can also choose to begin sweeping as the rock enters the house to encourage it to keep going beyond its resting point.
Only one team can score on each end and a full game is comprised of 14 of them. The closest rock to the centre of the house is the scoring team and they can score as many points as is uninterrupted rocks, eg. 3 yellow rocks before the first blue, three points to yellow.
Within an hour we were managing to challenge each other to games, 4 versus 4, made all the more fun by competitive colleague rivalries and a few dirty tactics. That being said, we don’t need to mention the final score..