Every facility in Canada offers the basic learn-to-curl clinics at the beginning of the curling season (varies across the country but anywhere from September to November). These clinics are usually a half day or a full day in length and will vary in cost from as inexpensive as free (!) to starting at $20 or more. You will be asked to bring clean running shoes. The key word is 'bring' because we don't want you wearing them into the building from outside. Any dirt on the curling ice can cause 'havoc' for the stones. You should also wear warm and loose fitting clothing - jeans are tough to curl in! You can bring mitts/gloves and a hat if you like but most curling arenas are heated and the temperature would be about 40°F or 3-4°C.
Most facilities have a try-it-for-free policy and will not ask for a membership fee until you decide you like the sport enough to play it regularly. Also, as we are so confident in our product, all you really have to do is throw your very first stone and you will fall in love with it. So call the club, ask for someone to show you how to throw a stone (20 minute lesson at most) and off you go!
97% of all Canadian curlers play for fun and/or for recreation. Every club has leagues that are designed to allow new players to integrate and most importantly, to join the 97% and have fun! However, there's a trend in Canada towards more comprehensive instruction leagues. They have been designed as programs for 8 weeks to the entire season. And the beauty of this type of programming is that you are under the watchful eye of an instructor every week. You are also learning with other people with the same skill levels and you will become a more accomplished player!
While some of the larger curling facilities have club professionals (similar to a golf professional), every club has an instructor who has been trained to deliver novice and intermediate training. Private rates for individuals can start as low as $20 an hour and start at $100 per hour for a team of four.
Equipment needs are simple: 1) You will need a pair of shoes ranging in price from $70-$300. You should consider purchasing shoes that come with the slider and grippers for both feet (when not sliding!). Now, you definitely can use a slip-on-slider for the first year or so to avoid buying the shoes just yet. They are about $20 and fast enough to curl with until you are ready to buy your first pair. 2) Many buildings will have club brooms new players can use until they are committed to playing regularly. They range from $50-$175 and you will likely have to replace the head (sweeping part) every 1 or 2 years at a small cost. 3) If you have loose fitting pants that are comfortable to curl in, you won't need to buy pants, but if you don’t and you want curling pants, expect to pay between $50-$150. As for renting, some of the larger clubs do have shoe and broom rental.
Admittedly, it is simpler to get into a curling program as a team of four players however, most clubs have leagues where single players or couples can sign up and most leagues usually have room for single players to get on teams. These new introductory leagues we talked about earlier are a great opportunity to learn all year and to play will players of the same skill level. Ask the club near you if they offer an Getting Started program for Adults (at 4 weeks or longer and preferably all year long)
While the game is played the same everywhere, how it is organized at the club differs widely. Some clubs have what is called ‘draw from the board’ league where individual names are drawn from a hat to make up teams for short periods of play; i.e. 6 weeks (this was very popular years ago). ‘Mixed’ curling is universal and can be found in any building. While not restricted to this format, generally it is two men and two women alternating positions. Other league structures include ‘open’ leagues (any combination of men and/or women); leagues for men or for women only; daytime leagues for people who have time during the day; leagues for little stones (6-12); juniors (20 and under); wheelchair, vision impaired, hearing impaired, Special Olympics. That is the beauty of the sport; anyone can play!
In an extended program for new curlers, it is recommended you play each position to understand the different roles. In regular league play, and even though we most often play for fun, new players will not get to experience playing third or skip just yet!
Whether you want to rent one sheet or the entire building to curl with your friends/family/co-workers, you can certainly do it at just about any club in Canada. The rates vary from $30-$100 dollars per sheet for two hours which is pretty cheap with 8 players per sheet. The price would generally include the use of the stones & brooms and the availability of the lounge for after-the-game fun! Corporately, curling is a fantastic team building exercise. Almost every company has a golf tournament; why not balance your recreation activities with a winter event at the curling facility. It's inexpensive; there is food and beverage; it's almost weatherproof: and it's fun!
The curling season grows each year as the Olympic popularity continues to drive demand. Many buildings now open in September and will close sometime in April. The small rural clubs, however, often don’t get playing until November and are usually closed up for the season by the end of March. Because many Canadians head south for the winter, there are some clubs that have ‘snowbird fees’ for the half season of play and a number re-jig their programming after Christmas allowing recent "prospects' the chance to play in a league
A curling game is traditionally made up of 6 or 8 ends, (10 ends in championship play) and teams are made up of four players. The head of the team is called the “skip” followed by the third (or mate or vice) then the second and finally the lead. An end (like an inning in baseball) consists of each team member throwing two curling stones in order down the ice towards a point chosen by the skip. Each player alternates throws with their opposite on the other team. A 12-foot circle (the house) is the scoring area and that circle is divided into four areas to describe the location of the stones. Regardless where the stone rests in the circle (or house) the value remains one (1) point. The centre is called the button. The next circle is named the four foot, followed by the eight foot and finally the twelve foot. The button is most often 12 inches in diameter but it does increase for televised events to 18" for sponsorship purposes. For each stone closer to the center of the house than any of the opponent’s stones, one point is scored. The game begins with the teams tossing a coin. The winner of the toss has choice of colour of stones or last stone in the first end (hammer). The team scoring in any end delivers first in the next end, giving the opponent the “hammer”, or last shot of that end.
The sheet of ice (playing surface) varies from 14'2" to 15’7” in width but is always 138 feet long and is set up to accommodate play in both directions.
In order to determine which direction a stone will bend or curl, you must apply a turn to the stone. For many new curlers, the terminology of in turn and out turn can be confusing. It may be easier to classify turns as either a clockwise rotation or a counter-clockwise rotation. Using this terminology makes the turn the same for left-handed curlers and right-handed curlers.
For a clockwise rotation (commonly referred to as the in-turn), place the handle so that it is so that the gooseneck is positioned pointing at approximately 10:00. The handle remains at 10:00 during the pull back and forward slide. One metre prior to release, the handle is rotated in a positive manner to the 12:00 position. The thumb and forefinger release the stone at the same time. This rotation will cause the stone to rotate in a clockwise direction. The stone should rotate 2 to 3 times as it travels the length of the sheet of ice on a draw shot.
For a counterclockwise rotation (commonly referred to as the out-turn), use the analogy of the clock again. The handle is positioned in the stance at 2:00 and one metre prior to release the handle is rotated to the 12:00 position.
A consistent release is necessary in order for the stone to react in a predictable manner. If there are too many rotations (a spinner) the stone will not curl. If the stone does not have a positive rotation it may lose its turn or act in an unpredictable manner.
Brushing is an important aspect of the game of curling. Effective brushing enables the stone to maintain its momentum longer than it would have had it not been brushed thus allowing the stone to travel further. Since the amount the stone curls is dependent on time, a brushed stone will not have as much time to curl and, as a result, the stone will travel straighter. There have been many theories regarding the effectiveness of brushing and what it actually does. Brushing reduces the friction between the stone and the ice surface in three ways: smoothing the pebble; removing frost and debris; and causing the pebble to melt briefly to create a thin film of moisture that acts as a lubricant between the ice and the stone. To become an effective brusher, the curler must develop endurance, brush head speed, downward pressure on the brush head, weight judgement skills and the ability
Pebbling refers to the water droplets that are allowed to fall on the ice. They freeze almost immediately, helping stones to slide faster. The curling action of stones also changes during a game as the pebble evens out from wear.
The curling stone weighs anywhere from 38 to 45 lbs and has a special feature on the bottom. The bottom of the stone is not flat, but concave and the actual running surface of the stone is only ¼” to ½” wide on the rim of the concave bottom. This small running surface allows the pebble applied to the ice to have an effect on the action of the stone. The stones are made of polished granite. Curling stones are indeed the most important item in a curling club. The curling stone granite most commonly found in use is the Trefor (pronounced Trevor). This granite comes from a quarry in Wales which produces three varieties of granite known as Blue Trefor, Red Trefor and Brown Trefor. The only granite being quarried today for use in the curling stone industry is the Blue Trefor. The rough stone or “cheese” is quarried in Wales. The Blue Hone Ailsa Craig and the standard Ailsa stone is perhaps the second most common granite found in play today. This granite was quarried on the Isle of Ailsa Craig which is located in the Firth of Clyde about ten miles off the mainland of Scotland. This quarry has now been closed.
Curling is one of the few sports that is open to nearly anyone, regardless of age or ability. Kids join in from a very young age (grade 3 or 4) using gym-based stones or club-based little stones. Adults play for life and well into retirement. It is not uncommon to have 90 year old men and women out on the ice competing! For the less mobile, there are plenty of aids available the popular "delivery stick". And Canadians with disabilities can join in the fun as there are programs for wheelchair, blind and hearing impaired!