February 8th, the Lone Star Curling Club held a “Learn to Curl”. 62 excited Austinites signed up and attended this two hour training session either because they had heard about Austin curling from a friend, or watched the Olympics and got interested in curling. Many said they were surprised to hear that there was a curling club in Austin, Texas.
The curling club uses the Chaparral ice rink located in Northcross Mall (Anderson Lane) and the club/league plays most Sunday mornings. Several times a year “learn to curl” events are held for interested people to try their hand at curling. A lot of the participants have no idea what they are getting into, and some have even said they thought it was the lazy person’s sport, so they figured it would be easy. All are surprised once they get on the ice.
As a side note, it never fails to amaze me how many people show up without gloves and/or warm clothes. You are on ice. Best thing is to wear layers of clothes (long sleeved t- shirt, sweatshirt, and jacket). If you get too warm from “sweeping” you can peel off a layer. At one curling session, a woman showed up wearing platform/wedge shoes. Again, you are on the ice – you need flat, rubber soled shoes (tennis shoes or flat bottom shoes).
A typical “learn to curl” starts off the ice. Participants watch a short video and hear about the basic skills that are needed. All participants are given a broom to use, and then they step onto the ice which holds the stones and sliders. Everyone is put into groups with an experienced curler teaching them the skills.
People of all ages come to curl. Families come for an experience. It seems that everyone is intimidated at first. Learning how to “throw” the stone (you never pick it up) comes first. To help you slide on the ice, you are given a “slider” to wear on the gliding foot (the other leg and foot trail out behind you). A slider is very slick, so balance is key. As is taking off the slider after you throw and before you stand up.
It takes a while to learn to balance while sliding your body and the rock forward. Almost everyone looks silly as they learn the correct body positioning and a few people flail and slide their whole body down the ice. While that does not literally break the ice, it does break the tension and team mates begin to relax. Repetition and practice are the keys to getting the feel for throwing the stone.
Another fun skill is sweeping. Participants are always shocked how much energy it takes and how fast you have to hustle. Sweeping and keeping up with the fast moving rock is usually a new activity and it takes balance and agility.
Curling is a fun way to meet other people, encourage others, and learn a new sport. There is lots of laughter and lots of yelling. Not bad or mean spirited yelling, but directional yelling. The “skip” will yell to direct the sweepers whether to sweep or not. In an ice rink with 8 or more people yelling at the same time, it can get loud.
A “learn to curl” is an introductory session aimed at educating and letting you get some practice. Many people have so much fun that they sign up for the league. For others it is bragging rights. But all agree, “Curling Rocks”.
If you want to get notified of future “learn to curls”, sign-up for email notification when we schedule another one.