What Is Curling, Anyway?

Stones, pebbles, brooms – these words hardly resemble sports terms, but in the world of curling, they are key elements of competition. My first experience with curling was in 2010 at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver when The Foundation for Global Sports Development took a group of youth to watch the women’s curling match. Although I didn’t completely understand the sport, I still found it fun to watch. Since that time I have witnessed a growing interest in curling, on the web and in conversation. Most people give a little chuckle when it comes up, but usually there is someone in the group who exclaims, “What IS curling, anyway?!”

History of Curling

This good natured sport most likely has its origins in Scotland during the 16th century. In fact, the 44 pound granite stones used in curling typically come from a rocky island in Scotland called Alisa Craig. As Scots moved about the world, the joy of curling was also exported from Scotland. Finally, in 1924 at Chamonix the first International competition of curling took place – with Great Britain defeating Sweden and France. Over the years, curlers from all over the world have united to create what is now called the World Curling Federation (WCF). With this federation, the sport has official medal award status at the Olympics.

How to Curl

The game consists of two teams, each made up of four individuals. The objective is to have your team’s stone closest to the center of a target, which is 126 feet away from where the slider releases the stone. Each member of the team has the opportunity to slide the stone. As the stone makes its way down the icy path, two other teammates use their brooms to strategically reduce friction on the ice (or not) to control the speed and trajectory of the stone. After all members of the team have gotten to slide two stones, the “end” is complete, and the next one begins. There are ten ends total. For each stone that is closest to the center target, the team earns a point.

Each team member play a role during the ends. There is the Lead who throws the first two rocks and will sweep the following six throws. The Second throws the third and fourth stones, and this particular thrower should be skilled at taking out the opponents’ stones. The Third should be skilled at throwing “draws,” where the stone only needs to reach the field of play, as opposed to taking out opponents’ stones. And finally, the Skip creates the strategy of the game, guiding the other teammates on their throws and sweeping.

The World Curling Federation

Currently, the World Curling Federation is on a special Olympic Celebration Tour as they prepare for Sochi. The Foundation for Global Sports Development is honored to have a role in supporting this endeavor, which according to Darrell Ell, Competitions and Development Officer for the World Curling Federation, is an effort to share this amazing sport with people all over the world and grow interest.

We had the opportunity to meet up with Darrell in Oakland, California last week as the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club hosted one of the stops on this Olympic tour. Darrell had invited Canadian silver medalist, Carolyn McRorie to join him for the weekend as they taught adults and youth the basics of curling.

One thing became clear during our time with Darrell, Carolyn, and the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club – curling is a sport for people who like to have fun and socialize. Since the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, more and more people are growing the spirit of curling, which really embodies the idea of good sportsmanship. Both Carolyn McRorie and Darrell commented to us that in curling, a person can go to any curling club anywhere and show interest or say they are a curler, and they will be immediately welcomed and handed a broom to do some sweeping!

Check back soon for details about our interview with Carolyn McRorie, silver medalist in curling from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver!

View the photos from our time in Oakland:
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Curling Resources:

Locate a Curling Club Near You
Rules of the Game
World Curling Federation