Most Americans only think of curling every four years when tuning in to the Olympics. When they do, they are bound to be intrigued by what is happening on the ice. One person carefully sends a heavy granite stone down the lane while his or her teammates quickly sweep a path for it to follow. Ultimately, the goal of this game, known as “chess on ice,” is to get the stones closest to the center of the target, called the house.
Originating in medieval Scotland, curling has a rich history and tradition. It first appeared in the Olympics in 1924 but wasn’t officially added until 1998. While the sport is played in several countries, it is especially popular in Canada, where the majority of curlers can be found. Now, interest is growing in the Sooner State.
[pullquote]Like golf or bowling, it’s something you can learn quickly and take a lifetime to master, and it’s something you can do at any age.”[/pullquote]The Oklahoma Curling Club (OKCC) was founded in 2010 following the Vancouver Winter Olympics. The members soon discovered that the “Spirit of Curling,” the legacy of good sportsmanship that accompanies the game, is what makes the game special.
“My favorite part of curling is the social aspect. It’s a game that starts with handshakes and ends with the tradition of the winning team buying the first round,” says club member Ryan McGhee. “You have time to talk to your teammates and the opposing team during play, and I’ve met some of my best friends through the curling league.”
McGhee says the group’s public events see a surge in interest right before and shortly after the winter Olympics. During this time, attendance jumps from 10 to 20 people to more than 100.
“These Learn to Curl events serve as an introduction to the sport, and we have U.S. Curling Association-certified instructors in our club who can help those who want to get started,” he says. “All you need to bring is loose-fitting clothing and rubber-soled shoes. For these events, we provide all the specialty equipment that’s necessary. And like golf or bowling, it’s something you can learn quickly and take a lifetime to master, and it’s something you can do at any age.”
The events and league games are held at the Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Edmond. The next Learn to Curl session is scheduled for Dec. 6.
“As a so-called ‘arena’ curling club, our challenge is ice time,” says McGhee. “We share our ice with hockey and figure skating and schedule our league’s events at times that are fair to everyone. We are very fortunate to have a good relationship with Arctic Edge, but if we had a dedicated curling facility, it would give us more flexibility in scheduling.”
OKCC isn’t letting the limited ice time keep them from playing. For the last three years, the club has sent members to compete in the USCA Arena Curling National Championships, and members compete across the country at curling tournaments, called bonspiels.
“Most bonspiels are for the love of the game,” McGhee explains. “You have a group of people who come together who already have curling in common, and you can just enjoy a weekend of competition and camaraderie.”