Curling: An Unrequited (?) Love Letter by Kate Thomas

May 21, 2018. This is the winter of our discontent. The last time I curled was April 21, 2018. Schenectady Curling Club. More or less a charity event for the Rutland Rocks people, who never ever get to curl on dedicated ice unless we pay $$dough to participate in a bonspiel. It seems like way more than a month ago—and with Upper Valley/Woodstock Curling Club not active again until July 7, I am not yet halfway through to the other side.

Sigh.

Curling. O how I love thee, and I know not why. This is an attempt to make sense of the obsession, to pick apart the logic, to begin to assess whether the weird game with the rocks and the ice and the yelling is good and true and what I need. Otherwise, what. The. Actual. F. I don’t even want to tell you how much money I spent on curling last year.

1.         Mind

Curling, I love how you take me out of my everyday set of stuff I need to think about and make me think about totally different stuff. In fact, you make me think about stuff I learned long ago: Geometry, physics, simple addition—it’s all there. Plus I have to pay attention to detail: Whether my crash hat is on straight, whether my broom is in the optimum position for sweeping, and whether I have transferred my stick to the opposite end of the sheet after delivering my two stones. The rhythm of each end, each game, each tournament is hypnotic and comforting, demanding and relaxing. Through it I reach a different plane—not necessarily higher, but parallel and emphatically not here. A true break.

At the same time, curling is very Zen. To do it well you need to be present, in the moment, just as it unfolds. You have to let go of expectations about what the next rock is going to be like, what the next end will bring, and how far you will get in the bracket. You have to focus on what is happening NOW, and deal with it as best, as gracefully, as appropriately as you can.

            And yet.

At the same time, you get to slow down time by breaking each task of the sport down into its constituent parts and doing your best to perform each task as close to perfectly as you can. Tasks include delivering the stone, sweeping the stone, and if you are vice or skip, reading the ice, reading the players, and figuring out the strategy. The constituent parts of each of those tasks takes seasons to learn, at least for me, as I am still learning.

Communication is key. We engage in an effort to call to others’ attention what is happening to ice, stone, sweeping, trajectory, speed, and balance in the moment. Within each task of each stones delivery exists rare opportunity for development in how to communicate to your teammate what you see, what you perceive is going to happen to that stone in the next nanosecond, and other ways of playing the next stone.

I love the times when my sweeping partner and I both start sweeping at the same time, unbidden, a simple, appropriate response to the trajectory and speed of the stone in the moment.

2.         Body

The labor of the sport is subtle and about as strenuous as I want to make it for myself. Sweeping the stone properly requires upper body strength like you wouldn’t believe. Cardio is definitely there, and then you have to transition from the sweep to being centered for delivery. It’s harder than it looks.

Comfort and freedom of movement is important. I’m still working on getting the layers right. Arena ice in the dead of winter, when it is cold as hell outside calls for base wicking Cuddle Duds layer, cold weather tight layer, possible third sweatpants layer, then sweater, vest, neck warmer, and crash hat. No glasses; you’ll fog them up when you dive into your neck warmer to breathe warmth around your own neck. Spring for the shoes. And compression socks won’t hurt.

Sweep! SWEEEEEEEP!!!! It’s as much a howl against the cold as it is a necessary exertion to get that damn stone down past the hog line. Cold conditions=slow stones=you need to SWEEP. Vigor, hurry hard, yell at it, call it names, get that thing down the sheet and over the hog line. You’ll be warm in no time.

Dedicated ice is different!!! Faster stones, usually not as much sweeping, and thank goodness—it’s warmer in a dedicated ice facility, really only need cold weather tights, kilt, sweater and vest. Crash hat on dedicated ice makes me so sweaty but worth it…so many pins on this vest I need to think about another way to keep them.

 

            Yoga pre-curling—I can’t believe how much better I feel the next day!

 

            One day bonspiel with 3 games guaranteed=22,000 steps!!!

 For once, I lost weight over the winter and I’m not dying biking up hills in spring. Thank the curling gods for this wonderful winter activity!

3.         Spirit

The people drawn to this sport are the quirkiest, coolest, funnest bunch there could be. Sure, some take it all very very seriously and this is not exactly what I’m into it for—but I get it. Curling is elusive, it’s this weird combination of physics, geometry, teamwork and individual performance that I have yet to get my head completely around.

The spirit of curling is contagious to the right people. You feel a little hook in, not painful, but there. You can’t get more than a few feet away from it from then on. Like a fish on a hook or a toddler on a leash, you’re tethered and you have to figure out how to operate in that reality.

There is more sitting around watching curling than there is actual curling at bonspiels. This is where you just need to talk to the person sitting next to you and see what happens. It’s not always pretty but it will definitely provide some insight into you, them, society, or something else. Do not take lightly the opportunity for real unadulterated human connection—whether through conversation, drinking, dancing, or karaoke. You have the rare pleasure of connecting with people who also engage in this funny sport no one has ever heard of, people who you may very well see again, at another bonspiel, but then again you may not actually ever see them again. You have the opportunity to be your best self outside of your comfort zone. You’re welcome.

Curling, you have me curled around your little finger. You rock my world. I can’t hack it without you.

Have a great curling topic? Want to contribute your own writing to #curling802? We'd just love to hear from you! Please email rutlandrockscurlingclub@gmail.com and we'll get back to you! Good curling!

Fun Facts Not Related to Curling

Fun Facts Not Related to Curling I Learned at Curling Related Events

by Kate Thomas

People ask me why I curl. I’ll cover the physical and mental benefits in another post. But other top reasons are to hang out with interesting people, go new places, and relax. At the close of this, my second season of curling, I have attended a good number of bonspiels and other curling events all over the Northeast. In so doing, I have met lots of people and learned lots of things…and not all of those things have been related to curling.

Read on:

1. Applebee’s is the Only Place in Rutland, VT Open Past 9 on Sunday Night

As an arena curling club that curls on a public ice arena, we are not allowed to broomstack (i.e. drink) in our facility. We also have to take ice time when we can get ice time, and we need to set up and put away our equipment before and after our Sunday night league. This takes time, and, apparently, the only restaurant/bar open in Rutland after 9 on Sunday is Applebee’s. We’re not complaining though.

2. Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Were Buds

During the Elisabeth Childs Challenge Ladies’ 5 and under bonspiel at Rochester Curling Club this year, my team had the pleasure of staying at an Air BnB right across the street from Susan B. Anthony Park, a few doors down from where the early suffragist and anti-slavery organizer lived her life. The park contains a beautiful bronze statute of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass having tea and talking. I hadn’t realized they were contemporaries, much less acquainted enough for tea. History education needs to change.

3. Swearing Makes You More Aggressive

One of our club members is a psychologist who likes to tell us fun facts about human nature. According to him, if you swear like a sailor you actually become more aggressive and make others behave more aggressively. As we are trying to adhere to the ethics of curling, swearing doesn’t exactly fit in with good sportsmanship and taking results gracefully—yet another reason to say other words that start with same letter of the word you are actually thinking of when you get mad.

4. Wegman’s in Rochester Has a Pub

Before attending the Elisabeth Childs Challenge this year, I had never set foot inside a Wegman’s. I had heard of this fabled place, filled with wonders, but figured it was all just hype. It. Is. Not. They have EVERYTHING…including a pub for your refreshment before, during or after your shopping chore. My team (“False Hopes”) had just rolled in from a five-hour car trip, and we needed supplies. Little did we know we were going to get tipsy at 3:00 on a Wednesday and then walk around Wegman’s buying a bunch of random stuff.

5. There is a Restaurant Called ‘Bad Daddy’s’ at the Raleigh NC Airport

Actually—this is more warning than fun fact. Just be prepared, should you ever visit the Triangle Club. Bring a snack so you don’t have to bend to the will of Bad Daddy’s. :::shudder::

6. ‘Classic’ Cover Bands Play Nirvana Now

I’m not kidding. In my normal life, I’m not much of a goer-outer anymore. I’ve got a house and a job with a lot of responsibility, plus I’m on boards and stuff. But at bonspiels, I’m let loose, anonymous, in a city to which I may never return. Which means I can go listen to cover bands and dance my butt off with other curlers—and I do. It is in this context I learned the not-as-much-fun-but-super-depressing fact that the music of 90’s Seattle rock legend Nirvana is now considered “classic” rock. By the kids. To be fair, these bands also know The Lion Sleeps Tonight. But still.

7. Locals Hang Out at the Irish Pub Next to the Schenectady Amtrak Station

Speaking of cover bands, there is a pub next to the Schenectady Amtrak Station that, in previous train travel, I assumed was only ever frequented by train travelers waiting five hours for their connections. As it turns out, it was hopping the Saturday of the 2018 Dutch Shoe in Albany, when we met a bunch of ladies from the Schenectady Curling Club there for some drinks and dancing our butts off (again).

8. Talbots Clearance Rules

Is it apparent yet that I live in a rural area? Talbots. Yet another thing I had never experienced before curling related travel. Our team got beaten at the Dutch Shoe, so the four of us—ranging from retired to barely over 30 years old—all went shopping together at Talbots. We all found stuff we love to wear there, plus the retail therapy helped the sting of losing all three games.

9. 99 Proof Grape Liquor (Actually Probably Any Flavor) Works as Nail Polish Remover

As as part of our relaxation time during the Elisabeth Childs, we did manicures. As we applied clear gel over our curling-themed Jamberry nails, we realized we had forgotten to bring nail polish remover—required with gel to get rid of residual stickiness. Luckily, one of our teammates works with chemicals, and she had the brilliant idea of using the nip of 99 Proof Grape Liquor included in our Elisabeth Childs Swag Bag (why? Why not!) instead of nail polish remover. It smelled like Dimetapp, but worked like a charm.

10. If You Light Sparklers You Poked into a Helmet, Wear It, and Ride a Bike Down a Hill, Your Hair Will Catch Fire

Now, before you freak out, please understand we didn’t do this. But a guy from my curling club did, in his youth, and lived to tell the tale. If you join, and do some traveling with us, maybe he’ll tell you too.

Good curling!

-Kate Thomas

Bonus Facts!

1. In addition to regularly scheduled club meetings and broomstacking post-league play, I’ve participated in Rutland Rocks Curling Club’s VERspiel 2017 and 2018; Schenectady Open Bonspiel 2017 and 2018; Mudspiel 2017; Upper Valley Curling Club’s Dayspiel 2017; Albany Curling Club’s Dutch Shoe 2018; Elisabeth Childs Challenge (Rochester) 2018; Krakow 2017 and 2018; and Schenectady’s Carosella Invitational 2018 (anticipatory).

2. Although, on reflection, they tend to fall into the curling subcategories of food, drinking, travel, and stuff people tell each other while they’re watching other people curl.

3. Bonus Fun Fact: Brownie filled pretzel bites and compression socks are both items available at Wegman’s Rochester.

Have a great curling topic? Want to contribute your own writing to #curling802? We'd just love to hear from you! Please email rutlandrockscurlingclub@gmail.com and we'll get back to you! Good curling!

Thoughts of a New Curler

In Vermont, September is a special time. The leaves have started to change and will soon drop. The days become shorter and darker and the farmers are at the market selling brussel sprouts and butternut squash. The whole world seems to be preparing for winter.  

This week it has been in the 70’s and it's hard to think about curling when it's so warm and green and sunny outside, but in just a few short months seasonal arenas everywhere will be abuzz with the “klack klack” of stones and the laughter and good cheer of the curlers. As I reflect upon my first season of curling I think about how much I've learned since the first time I stepped into the hack and pushed that 45-pound stone toward the house. There were so many thoughts that went through my mind at that instant and throughout the season. I thought I'd share some that could resonate with other new curlers or soon-to-be curlers.

1. Will I slip and fall and break my face?

You probably won’t. I was pretty surprised to find out that the ice isn’t as slippery as I thought it would be. Some good advice I got was to “walk like a penguin”. This means to take smaller steps keeping your feet right underneath you. Once you develop your “ice legs” you’ll feel comfortable walking like you usually do on non-ice. But you ARE ON ICE! Keeping that situational awareness will keep you from breaking your face.

2. What if I suck?

You probably will. It took me at least half a season to develop basic skills like realizing when it was my turn to throw the stone or sweep or what was going on, generally. Often times curling clubs have “learn to curl” sessions. Take advantage of these! Not only is it a great introduction to curling, but it is a chance to develop skills. Remember that everyone was new at one time, has off days, and is there to have fun!   

3. Am I going to freeze to death?

Nope! If I didn’t, you wont! The temperature in our local arena fluctuates with the temperature outside. Sometimes it felt like 15 degrees F, sometimes it felt like 50 degrees F. I usually came prepared by dressing in layers (see #4 below) and had at least one hand warmer in my pocket at all times. This temperature fluctuation, of course, also affects the ice conditions. We’ll talk about this in a later post. (Note: Some fancy arenas are even temperature controlled so its like 40 degrees F on the ice. They even have warm rooms with food and booze!).

4. What do I wear?

To start out you won’t need anything special. Just plan to wear some warm clothes that allow you to move. For some, this mean jeans and a sweater! I found myself dressing in layers, a base layer of non-cotton pants and shirt and wool socks underneath athletic tights and an active-wear dress. Finally, I wore a lightweight down jacket with gloves, a hat, and sometimes a scarf. One person in the league gave me her old curling shoes to wear! Otherwise, you can wear some clean, rubber-soled shoes to start out.

5. What do I bring?

I usually bring a bag with extra gloves, hand warmers, and a water bottle. You’ll see veteran curlers bring in their own brooms, but don’t worry about that quite yet. Curling clubs will have equipment for members to borrow including brooms, sliders, and stabilizers. Sometimes people bring flasks, but gauge the club etiquette before boozing it up on the ice!

I hope sharing my thoughts as a brand-new curler helps folks who are also new to the sport or are thinking about joining a local club. See you on the ice!

Good curling!  

-Teri-Anne Walker, RRCC

Have a great curling topic? Want to contribute your own writing to #curling802? We'd just love to hear from you! Please email rutlandrockscurlingclub@gmail.com and we'll get back to you! Good curling!

#curling802 is live!

Welcome to the official blog of Rutland Rocks Curling Club! Our Board Secretary, Lauren, has worked super hard on developing our website and social media accounts. (She also keeps us all on task and makes a killer curry chickpea dish!) I have, as a new board member, volunteered (read: was coerced into) helping manage these outreach tools.

 The thing is, I am neither savvy in social media nor a writer. So, I asked a colleague what non-writers should write about on social media. His advice was to, “write what you know.” Well, I have one season under my belt, so don't know a whole lot. So I'm going to do the opposite of the advice and write what I don't know. That means I get to learn and share! So, some things this blog will cover over time  are: being a beginner curler, curling etiquette, curling current  events, The Olympics, curling history,  drinking, curling history and drinking, interviews with club members and drinking, women in curling, curling’s place in the sporting community, sportsmanship, and even possibly product reviews! I know, exciting stuff, right?! 

We at RRCC are excited to grow our local club membership as we grow our social media presence. What a perfect way to fulfill our mission: “The Rutland Rocks Curling Club is dedicated to fostering the spirit and sport of curling in Rutland and the surrounding communities.”

Stay tuned for our first post coming soon!

Good curling!

 -Teri-Anne Walker

 

Have a great curling topic? Want to contribute your own writing to #curling802? We'd just love to hear from you! Please email rutlandrockscurlingclub@gmail.com and we'll get back to you! Good curling!