AK: Curling

Curling stone. (Photo by Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI - Homer)
Curling stone. (Photo by Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer)

A warmer winter has pushed many Homer residents inside the local ice rink, looking for a blast of cold air and a good winter sport. And curling seems to be just the ticket. It’s a centuries old game that can be played by people young and old, highly athletic or not, by rookies and experienced players alike. KBBI’s Shady Grove Oliver stopped by an open curling night at the rink to find out just what attracts new people to this unique sport and keeps them coming back.

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Now, this might sound funny. But if there’s one thing every curler at the rink seems to agree upon, it’s that this sport is pleasing to the ears.

“I really like the sound,” Mike Hiller, who is pretty new to curling, said. He’s brought his 8-year-old son Tucker along who totally agrees.

“Sounds really loud because of all the rocks hitting each other and going down the ice,” Tucker  said.

Jeff Sharpe pushes off. (Photo by Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI - Homer)
Jeff Sharpe pushes off. (Photo by Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer)

And his teammate, Jeff von Rekowski, thinks it’s pretty cool too. After all, that’s why people call it “The Roarin’ Game.”

“When the two granite stones collide together, it just echoes throughout the whole building and it’s an incredible sensation and sound and it’s like man, it’s gonna be a good day. Boom!” Jeff said.
Tucker forgot to mention he also likes the brooms. Yeah, it’s the sport with the brooms. So, let’s be honest about curling. “Well, I mean, if you think about it…we’re hucking a bunch of rocks up and down the ice trying to get them to land in a little circle with brooms in front of them,” Tucker said. “So, I mean, yeah, it’s kind of silly. But it works!” [caption id="attachment_134266" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Players sweep ahead of stone. (Photo by Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI - Homer) Players sweep ahead of stone. (Photo by Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI - Homer)[/caption] Brian Saunders is a first time curler. He came down to the rink this evening with his friend, Anders Gustafson, who’s also never done this before. “I think everybody gets the brunt of jokes for curling and I wanted to see for myself what it’s all about,” Brian said. “So I got to come down and invited some friends to join me.” His first impressions? That curling lives up to its nickname “chess on ice.” “It’s a finesse game it seems like. It’s subtle movements. It’s getting the launching down. It’s getting the right strength that you’re throwing the weight, they called it,” Brian said. “And then, learning to curl and make it curve with a little bit of a hand spin.” That’s curling in a nutshell. There are two teams with four players each. They take turns throwing stones across the ice to the house, or the circles at the end of each lane. The people with the brooms sweep the ice in front of the stone to speed it up or make a course correction. It’s scored on a point system depending on where the stones end up. [caption id="attachment_134267" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Homer Curling Club plays in Kevin Bell Hockey Arena. (Photo by Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI - Homer) Homer Curling Club plays in Kevin Bell Hockey Arena. (Photo by Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI - Homer)[/caption] Curling ice is a bit different from typical hockey rink ice. That’s why many established curling clubs have dedicated arenas. But since the Homer group started less than a year ago, it’s working with a hockey rink that needs to be prepped for play. Elizabeth Diament is one of the club’s founders. She’s walking up and down the rink doing something called pebbling. “Which is basically just taking a sprayer and spraying droplets across the lanes of the ice and those will freeze into little pebbles along the ice,” Elizabeth said. “So, it’s much easier to walk on and it’s much easier to direct the stone where to go.” When asked how she got into it, Elizabeth credits the Olympics. It’s the same story for several other people here this evening including Natalia Croly, who’s been curling for a few weeks. “About eight years ago, my husband and I were watching the winter Olympics and we saw this game, curling. We started watching and at first we said that looks extremely boring,” Natalia said. “But, then we found ourselves watching and watching more, for longer. And then we were looking for when the next games were happening.” [caption id="attachment_134268" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Curling stone on the sheet. (Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI - Homer) Curling stone on the sheet. (Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI - Homer)[/caption] When they heard that a group was starting up in town, she says they couldn’t wait to sign up. Now, she’s hooked. “I don’t know. I just love the feeling of gliding on the ice,” Natalia said. “I just love how that stone just carries you on the ice. I also love that it’s a game with a lot of etiquette.” On top of everything else, it’s polite. Remember Mike who likes the sound? He calls curling a gentleman’s game. He likes that he can play with his son, that it’s a workout but isn’t too hard, that it’s inclusive. “It does not matter how good you are. It’s just as fun no matter what your skill level is. It’s all mixed all the time, every night, every time you come here [there’s] a completely different skill level,” Mike said. “There’s always new people and it doesn’t impact the game in any way. It’s just as fun.” So yes, curling’s kind of silly. But it’s also a serious sport that somehow seems to bring out the best in the people who give it a shot.