Five Things You Should Know About Curling

It seems that I still have a few friends here in Virginia who don’t know that I curled.

This is less a factor of me being modest and unassuming, and more of a factor that I increasingly blot out entire chapters of my life (most of them spent in North Dakota).

For the record, I have curled. I was a good sweeper, but a lousy curler. I couldn’t slide a rock to save my life. (They’re 40 pounds, those rocks.)

But, I could sweep, although I would often get so engrossed in my sweeping – back-forth-back-forth-back-back-forth-forth – that I wouldn’t hear the thrower or skip yelling directions to us sweepers down past the hog line.

(I just wanted to say “hog line.”)

The Olympic curlers are so loud they’ve been heard outside the Sochi arena barking orders to their sweepers.


Photo by: Otchampery via Creative Commons.

There are no photos of me curling, so stop asking.

I looked forward to curling days in high school gym class.

If it was basketball or volleyball day, it was simply an hour in the gym running around or getting whacked by the bigger, more athletic girls.

We played indoor soccer in the gym, too. That was more fun, and occasionally the tough girls would kick their rivals hard in the legs intentionally, and then blame the ball for the accident.

But, curling was great, because we had to take the school bus to get to the curling rink. (Devils Lake, North Dakota didn’t have much, but it had a curling rink … like a bowling alley only icier. And, colder.)

DL Curling

You thought I was kidding about the “Satan” thing in yesterday’s post?

Shuttling a bus load of high school students to the curling rink … and back … absorbed a good amount of the school day, or at least the daily gym requirement.  Ergo, curling was great.

And, every four years, come Olympics time, I have to defend the sport (and, yes, non-believers, it is harder than it looks, and it is a sport).


public domain image

Curling on a frozen Nova Scotia lake in 1897. Look how popular it is!

As a public service, here are five things you should know about curling.

5) That ice is not smooth.

At the elite, Olympic level, they manufacture an uneven icy surface – known as the sheet – by spraying water on it. At the beer-drinking levels of the sport, the ice just gets dinged up and scuffed on its own.

(I always thought this rough-ish surface was to keep us from falling down. But, the curling gods care less about the safety of its players and more for the maneuverability of the rock.)

4) Curlers wear special shoes.

Sweepers today have special slip-slidey shoes that have Teflon soles. The thrower wears one Teflon shoe (on his front foot) and one non-slip-slidely shoe on his back (hack) foot.

While novice curlers can get cheap “slip-on” soles to turn their normal-people shoes slidey, Olympic curlers will pay upwards of $450 for the perfect curling shoe.

3) The word “curling” has nothing to do with the movement of the rock.

The “currrrr” is the sound the rock makes while it slides on the ice. (I wrote a paper on the history of curling in high school, I know this stuff.)

2) The Beatles curl in the movie “Help!”

If there ever was a reason why I would love curling when I was in high school, that was it. (Spoiler Alert: The bad guys in “Help!” replace the curling rock with a bomb!)


If the Ramones had curled, I’d have Olympic medals by now.

1) A weekend round-robin curling tournament is called a “bonspiel.”

This is one of the greatest, most beautiful, and most underused words ever. Please use “bonspiel” in conversation today.

(Bonus Fun Fact: In bonspiels, teams win “stuff” like tee-shirts, and curling shoes, and brooms, and, possibly, beer. If there’s money involved, then the tournament is called a “cashspiel.”)

Now, go watch curling … and impress your friends!

11 thoughts on “Five Things You Should Know About Curling

  1. Just finished reading the Wikipedia entry on curling as I couldn’t figure out the scoring while watching it on the Olympics. Now I also know the difference between brooms and brushes. I think I miss the brooms, though the players likely don’t.

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