My left foot is in the hack, a foot-hold used by curlers to launch their delivery of the curling stone. My right foot is on a teflon sliding pad that looks like a shoe insert on steroids. Left hand on the handle of the stone, while the right holds tightly to the stabilizer that will (hopefully) keep me from spilling out on the ice. All I can do now is look ahead at my teammate, follow her lead on which way to deliver the stone and hope for no major injuries.
This is me trying curling for the very first time with the Leaside Curling Club.
Growing up, I used to watch my Nana Vezina curl with her club up in North Bay. From behind the glass it looked like organized madness. People chasing stones and sweeping the ice, shouting “hurry hard!” like it was military training week, women and men sprinting up and down the ice like nimble winter elves. Twenty-five years later, I have a front-row ticket to learn what curling is all about and hopefully, to make my grandmother proud.
With the help of some ladies from the Leaside Curling Club, Jane Burgess, Gail Ann Ferguson and Janet Macmillan, we make up a team of four. At the other end of the ice, Jane is signaling instructions. She stands in the house, the ring of circles where points are gained or lost. She signals with her right hand, so I must turn the stone handle a bit to the right and push off the hack dragging one knee behind me. Before I reach the black line (or hog line), I will let go of the stone, but before I do, there is a little counterclockwise turn I’ll have to make with my wrist to send the stone in the right direction.
Little did I know, the sport is called curling because that is what the stones actually do. My head teacher for the day, Leaside Curling Club General Manager Paivi Liitela, told me stones never travel the ice in a straight line. They will always curve, which is why that last flick of the wrist before letting go is so important.
With Paivi and Gail Ann at my side, I learn how to deliver a stone crouched on my knees and with a stick (for those with limited mobility), how to sweep the ice with a curling broom, how to “hurry hard” and how to put your thigh muscles in overdrive to send you down the ice. As I apply the lessons, I can feel my core muscles tighten with every throw of the rock and my legs are taut with the responsibility of securing my safety. If my Nana Vezina weren’t already an impressive woman, experiencing the sport she loves to play certainly won me over.
I had a great time learning how to curl and since I’m a Vezina who cannot skate, this looks like a winter sport for me. For those interested in giving curling a try, visit the Leaside Curling Club’s website at https://leasidecurling.ca/index.php and check out their youth, women’s, men’s and mixed league playing times. Until next time…for science!
For a glossary of curling terms, visit: curling.ca/about-the-sport-of-curling/getting-started-in-curling/glossary-of-curling-terms/