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!
-Teri-Anne Walker, RRCC
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