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About Curling

What is curling?

Seemingly simple. A granite rock, a sheet of ice, a target 42 yards away. Finish with your rocks closer to the target than your opponents’, and your team of four wins a game in which keen competition mixes with a wonderful social atmosphere.

But wait: this is an Olympic sport, played by people across the world from ages 8 to 80. There must be more to it.

And there is. The rocks curl (or curve) down the sheet, traveling over an ice surface rife with nuances thanks to specially applied ‘pebble’ of frozen mist that lets the 42-pound rocks move with surprisingly little effort. Finesse and control of how hard rocks are thrown (the ‘weight’) become the important factors, not strength. The weight of a thrown rock affects the amount of curl, but a rock’s progress can be altered by judicious sweeping to polish the ice in front of it, making a rock move both farther and straighter. Added complications are crafty opponents who place their stones in positions to block your access to the center of the target (the ‘house’). You have to think several rocks ahead to make sure that, at the completion of each end of 16 rocks, your rocks are closest to the button, the center of the house.

So curling is a game of strategy, of finesse, and yes of fitness. A team’s sweepers travel up to two miles in a game and, at the highest levels of the sport, expend the same energy as a sprinter in a 200 meter dash.

Overhead view of curling sheet

More about curling

Weight By The Numbers

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Basics of Curling

Two four-person rinks (teams) compete, with each rink throwing (sliding) 8 rocks per "end" of play. Teams alternate turns, and each player throws (slides) two stones. Each end starts with the leads (first players) alternating throws, followed by the seconds, then the thirds (more commonly known as vice-skips) and finally the skips, who throw last, plot strategy, and study how the rocks move on the ice. Judicious sweeping in front of the moving stones can affect both the distance traveled, and the amount of curling a stone does on it's way down the sheet of ice. Scoring is simple. The team receives one point for each of their rocks that are within the house and are closer to the center than any of the opposition's stones. The team that scores throws first in the next end.

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How to try Curling

If you have never curled before, and that includes most people, we have opportunities for you to get your feet wet.

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What Equipment Do I Need To Curl?

Susan Arminger and Alan MacNeil get the houses sorted out before the 2011-2012 season

Items for you to bring for your first time curling:

  • Warm, loose-fitting clothes (sweatshirt or sweater)
  • Gloves & an optional hat
  • Clean sneakers or rubber-soled shoes
  • A good nature and sense of humor

Items we'll supply:

  • Great ice
  • Curling stones
  • Sweeping brooms

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Build Your Own Stabilizer

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Scoreboard 101

Reading our scoreboard takes a bit of getting used to. This page will walk through the process in a more detail than the previous page, the basics of curling.

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Curling Safety

Curling is a winter sport, played on ice. Ice is slippery, hard, cold, and wet. When normal caution is ignored, you can discover any or all of those facets, probably in that order.

  • Warm up before the game. Stretching and warming muscles before going out onto the ice can help prevent injury.
  • Step onto the ice gripper-foot first. Never use your slider foot to step onto the ice.
  • Always be careful when stepping off the ice. Always put your slider foot up first.
  • Never stop a rock with your hand. Your fingers can be crushed, especially if the rock hits another rock while you're trying to stop it.

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The following links will take you to informative web sites with in depth discussions on the rules of curling:

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Skins Competition

The Skins format differes from regular curling in that a point 'skin' is awarded for each end won, with the skin value for each end increasing as the game progresses. A skin is awarded if the team with the hammer scores two or more points or the opposing team steals the end. If neither of these occur the skin is carried over to the next end and the total value at stake grows. This results in a very exciting offensive style of play where every end is like the final end of the game with teams going all out to win. At the completion of eight ends the team with the most skin value wins the game.

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Mixed Doubles

Mixed Doubles is the newest form of curling in the USCA.

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Nuclear Curling

You won't find Nuclear Curling anywhere except at the Potomac Curling Club. It is the brain child of Brian Galebach who has figured out a way to use all four sheets of ice, with only eight curlers, and the total disregard for any sideline (or bumper) conventions. It is expected that you will often throw your stone towards the house on another sheet. A complete game takes about 15 minutes. Naturally, it could be modified for a three (or even two) sheet club.

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What the heck are they doing with those brushes? And why are they doing it? Vigorous sweeping, quickly and with pressure, tends to melt the surface of the pebble just a tiny bit. You can't see it, but it's there. This tiny sheen of water on the tops of the pebbles has has two purposes:

  1.  to make a delivered stone travel farther, and
  2.  to straighten out the curve of a delivered stone.

A third and unofficial reason to sweep is to keep warm! You will also see sweepers brushing lightly in front of the moving stone to "clean" the ice. This tends to eliminate sweater fuzz, pocket lint, dust, dirt from somebody's shoe, etc. that may affect the path of the stone.

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The spirit of the roaring game demands good sportsmanship, common courtesies, and honorable conduct. While not strictly in the rule books, curling courtesy goes a long way towards an enjoyable day of curling. By following these generally accepted courtesies you will be welcomed and accepted as a curler at clubs all over the world.

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Curling Terminology

What's an end? A freeze? How deep do you have to dig to "bury a stone?"  Like any other sport, curling comes with its own unique vocabulary. Check out our glossary so you can talk the talk too.

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The Spirit of Curling

Teams shake hands before a game.

Curling is a game of skill and of traditions. A shot well executed is a delight to see and so, too, it is a fine thing to observe the time-honoured traditions of curling being applied in the true spirit of the game. Curlers play to win but never to humble their opponents. A true curler would prefer to lose rather than win unfairly.

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History of Curling and Its Place in the World

Curling has come a long way from the 16th century when hardy Scots slid odd-shaped rocks called 'loafies' on the frozen lochs and marshes of Scotland. Today the game is played indoors on meticulously prepared ice with polished 42-pound granite rocks that gleam like jewels as they rumble their way down towards brightly colored houses. It became an Olympic medal sport in 1998 at the Nagano games in Japan and proved to be extremely popular at the Salt Lake City games in 2002 We continue to see an upswing in interest every four years, coincident with the Winter Olympic Games.

Curling in the United States dates back to the 1830s when Scottish soldiers and settlers brought the game to Michigan. From there it spread northward into Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and other other states in the Curling Heartland of America, where it remains popular. Today there are over 15,000 curlers and 135 clubs in the U.S., most in the north central US. but also in about 20 or states. Still more clubs are forming in the wake of the Olympic popularity. The Kansas City Curling Club has a fascinating map of US clubs.

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Books & Videos

Curling Books - The books, which are mostly published in Canada, are available online at commercial vendors and curling videos abound on the Internet.

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