Curling Tips

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When you step into the world of curling, you’ll discover a sport that is thrilling thousands of Manitobans who know it has everything you need to enjoy yourself this winter, and more.

From the moment you throw your first stone you’re already a curler, and an important member of the team.  There’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment, take costly lessons or spend years learning the basics.  The game is easy to play and from the start you’ll have fun, no matter what your level of skill.

In curling, you don’t need to be the biggest, the strongest or the most popular player to be the star of the team, but it may help if you have the most delicate touch or you’re the smartest.  Curling is a game of finesse and strategy, not brute strength.  And as you grow older, you’ll probably get better.

When you begin to curl you’ll notice that the sport is also a social event, a way to meet with old friends and make new ones.  With thousands of curlers and hundreds of teams already playing in the province, you never know who you’ll meet at your next game or come up against at one of the many bonspiels organized in the province.

And there’s leagues for everyone - young and old, men and women, mixed or seniors.  Having a good time this winter is just a stones throw away.

HOW TO PLAY

From looking at a curling rink - a long narrow sheet of ice, with bull’s eyes painted on either end, like a giant frozen shuffleboard - it’s easy to figure out the purpose of the game: to get your team’s stones closest to the center of the target.  But because the game is played on ice, it’s both more complex and challenging.

Curling is played in rounds, called ends.  In every end, each of the four players on a team will throw two stones alternately with the opposing team.  After each end, the score is tabulated.  A game usually consists of ten ends, but may be played in eight.

Which team will shoot first is decided at the beginning of play, by lot, by the two teams’ thirds.  Thereafter, the order of play is determined by who wins each end - the winner of an end will throw first the next end.

The Team

Each curling team consists of four players, the lead, the second, the third and finally the skip and players will throw their stones in that order.

The skip is the captain of a curling team.  In each end, the skip throws the team’s last stone, which generally is the most difficult.  The skip is usually the player with the most experience on the team who decides the team’s strategy and calls the shots.  The skip is most easily identified as the player seen standing in the house, or target area, holding out their brush as a target for their teammates.    

Scoring

Each stone that touches or is inside the house can be counted.  After all stones have been thrown in an end, the team with the stone closest to the center of the house counts one point and gains an additional point for every stone that lies closer to the center than the nearest opponent’s stone.

The Scoreboard

The scoreboard looks more intimidating than it actually is.  It is set up to easily determine both the score and the end being played.  Points are permanently marked on the board, and a team’s score is indicated by the placement of the ‘end’ markers.  After winning an end, a marker with the end number is placed above or below the total score for that team.

To indicate the total score after an end has been blanked (meaning neither team scored a point), the end marker is hung on the left-hand upper or lower corner of the scoreboard.

The Curl in Curling

The secret to curling, as you may suspect is the unique curling action of the stone.  This comes from the rotation put on the stone during delivery.  Without any rotation, the stone would just slither down the ice unpredictably.  With a fast rotation or spin, the stone moves in a straight line.  But by turning the stone just the right amount, it can be made to move left or right, depending on the direction of the rotation.

The In-Turn and the Out-Turn

With the in-turn the stone is delivered with a clockwise rotation.  This will make the stone curl from left to right. 

The out-turned stone rotates counter-clockwise and will curl right to left.

Mastering both these types of shots is essential to good curling for it allows a team to direct their stone around guard stones placed by either team in front of the house.

Sweeping

Sweeping, as you may have already guessed, is an attempt to make a stone thrown with insufficient weight, go further.  It also will make a stone curl less, by shortening the time it will take for the stone to reach the house.

Sweeping is effective because:

  • It slightly melts the ice, creating a temporary film of moisture on which the stone can slide more easily; 
  • It smoothes and removes frost from the ice, reducing the friction in its path; and
  • It cleans the ice of any debris. 

HINTS FOR BETTER CURLING

Although the only way to learn how to properly throw a stone is practice, there are certain hints that can give you that head start when you begin to curl.

The Grip

Grip the stone lightly with your fingers; control of the stone’s rotation comes from the thumb and forefinger.  To throw an in-turn, slightly turn the handle of the stone to the 10:00 o’clock position.  The rotation should be applied to the stone at the end of the delivery.  To throw an out-turn; turn the handle of the stone to the 2:00 o’clock position.  The rotation would be applied to the stone by slowly rotating the hand to the handshake position.

Delivery

When getting ready to deliver the stone, place the ball of your foot in the hack, the rubber starting block is there to give you traction.  Your toe should be pointing directly at your skips’ brush held out as a target.  Your sliding foot should be flat on the ice parallel to your hack foot and slightly ahead.  Now you make a slight forward motion of the rock and body, which serves as a starting point for the back swing. 

Remember, when you are getting ready for the back swing, your body and the stone must be directly in line with your skips’ brush.

As the stone begins to slowly move back, both legs aid in the lift of the lower body.  However, once the lower body begins to move upward, the majority of the body weight shifts to the hack leg and foot.  Upper body position varies only slightly during the entire motion.  The rock comes back toward the toe.  Then, as the stone begins to move forward, the sliding foot is delayed so the stone may be extended ahead of the sliding foot.  The sliding foot begins to move forward in behind the stone and the drive from the hack begins to take place.

A proper follow through is important for consistent delivery because it protects against any abrupt movement during final release.  You should keep your eyes and body pointed directly at your skip’s broom, with your throwing arm remaining outstretched, even after the stone is on its way down the ice.  Remember to pay attention only to your target, not where the stone will eventually end up.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO CURL

Clothes:  Although most curling rinks are indoors these days, it is still advisable to wear warm, loose fitting clothing.  Layering is also suggested so you can remove outer garments to avoid overheating.

Shoes:  Shoes are the most important piece of equipment for a curler.  One shoe will work as a gripper, the other as a slider.  Shoes come in a variety of different price ranges made from a variety of different materials.  The slider may be anything from plastic to Teflon.  If you’re serious about curling, buying a quality pair of shoes is a definitely a good investment.

Brooms and Brushes:  Like shoes, brooms and brushes come in a variety of materials and price ranges.  The traditional curling broom is the corn broom.  However, brushes have become the standard replacement for the broom.  Its action requires no sweeping but rather a constant rubbing motion over the ice which curlers find easier.

HOW TO JOIN

Because curling is so popular in Manitoba, it’s never hard to find a league in which to play.  Throughout the province there are a variety of leagues catering to everyone’s age, skill or interest.  There are men’s and women’s leagues, mixed leagues, junior men’s and junior women’s leagues as well as senior’s leagues.

Possibly your first step should be to ask your friends and co-workers if they know of a league you can join.  Chances are that someone close to you is an avid curler who can guide you towards a league, and offer you invaluable advice on playing the game.

Also, your company, employees association, or a club you belong to may have organized a league you can join.

Otherwise, you can always drop by your local curling rink and ask for information.  The people there would be more than happy to give you the names and numbers of the key people to contact.