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Give curling a whirl

Curling

When the weather turns frigid, it’s tempting to just hibernate for the winter. Or you could join the Des Moines Curling Club.

“Curling combines the fun of bowling, softball and other community-based sports with complex strategy that can be played at almost any age,” said curling enthusiast Michael Sible. “Plus, it’s pretty much the last Olympic sport you can fantasize competing in.” (Curling has been an Olympic sport since 1988).

Once a week, for an eight-week period, 66 members of the Des Moines Curling Club meet at the Metro Ice Sports Facility in Urbandale for curling competition and camaraderie.

Sible, the president of the Des Moines Curling Club, started playing in 2000 while living in St. Paul. In 2013, the Des Moines Curling Club was founded, and it’s been growing ever since. The Des Moines club is a member of the USCA, the U.S. Curling Association. “This is our sixth year on ice,” said Sible.

The history of curling dates to the 16th century. Although the origins aren’t exactly clear, there’s evidence it existed in Scotland in the early 1500s.

Some of the terminology of curling can be perplexing, such as "burning a rock." That’s when a player touches the rock, or stone, as it’s moving down the sheet.

If you "hurry hard," you have been instructed by the skip (think quarterback) to sweep in front of the stone. When you throw the rock to the house and land on the button, you are having a great game.  

The rock, or 42-pound granite stone, is delivered to the house, the area of the bull’s-eye rings, 12-foot, 8-foot, 4-foot, and the center is the button. The playing surface is the called the curling sheet. The curl, or turn, is the rotation of the stone, clockwise or counter clockwise, resulting in a curved path.

Sible said the most difficult challenge for a beginner is a consistent delivery while balancing and trying to aim accurately. Although curling appears to be a simple game, strategy and teamwork are essential.

“Curling is to shuffle board what chess is to checkers,” said Sible. “They look similar, but the complexity is many times greater.”

Following the match, the players put up their brooms and the winning team buys the losing team a drink, the tradition is known as "broomstacking."   

“While we enjoy the competition, the camaraderie is more important,” said Sible. “And we’re always looking to teach more people.”

For more information about the club, check out dmcurling.com.

So what is curling?

Basically, two teams of four players try to place the stones as close to the center of the target as possible.

The team skip, or captain, directs the players for placement, and the lead, second and third do the sweeping.

Sweeping causes a change in the path and speed of the stone by warming the ice and reducing friction.

A period of play is called an end, and a game is 8 or 10 ends. So what is curling?