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Learning Curve

How to: curling


Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area curling

I crouch down on the slippery ice and grab the handle of the 40-pound curling stone. I push off in a deep runner’s lunge, sliding along the ice with the stone. I’m doing it! I am graceful; I am a natural; I am… unceremoniously splayed on the ice after losing my balance.

But Mike Greenberg, my instructor from the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club, assures me that spills sometimes happen. During our learn-to-curl clinic at Oakland Ice Center, more than one person wipes out trying a sport that I thought only existed every four years in the Winter Olympics. During my sold-out lesson, I realize that curling has developed a strong following here in the East Bay, and it’s not nearly as easy as the Canadians make it look on TV.

Next up is learning how to sweep, which involves vigorously scrubbing the ice immediately in front of the stone with a broom resembling an oversized squeegee. The goal is to melt the ice so the stone can travel faster, so I attempt to sweep as hard as I can while my captain bellows, “Harder! Harder! Hurry!”

During my first foray into curling, I don’t exactly blow anyone away with my talent. One of my stones hurtles past the scoring area, and the second takes a painfully slow arc and scratches to a halt, despite the best efforts of my sweepers. And I can’t quite get the hang of running and sweeping simultaneously. But Colleen Buyers, who helped found the Oakland club, assures me it’s the sense of camaraderie, not winning, that draws people to the sport.

“Curling is a social sport, and the group of people here appreciates the congeniality and supportive community,” she says. “When someone from the other team makes a good shot, you compliment it. You don’t trash talk.”  

Give it a try: On January 4, San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club is holding a learn-to-curl event. For information on lessons and leagues, visit bayareacurling.com.

What to Bring

Want to try curling? Come with the following items to make sure you’re not caught unprepared on the ice.

Tennis shoes
The tread cuts down on spills.

Insulating socks
Got to keep those toes warm.

Hands have to be kept out of pockets.

Workout pants
You must lunge deeply when throwing.

Things heat up when you start sweeping.

The winning team buys the first round at a nearby bar.


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