Like thousands of others, Oak Forest’s Iain Kinloch and his daughter Ainsley watched the curling competition at the Winter Olympics. But unlike most viewers, after the Olympics were over, the father and daughter decided to try it out for themselves.
Fourteen year old Ainsley who will be a freshman at Lutheran High North said that she and a friend were talking about curling during a school basketball game and as a lark found the Curling Club of Houston online. They signed up for the two hour Learn-to-Curl class, and then Ainsley brought her dad back for another class. Then she and her dad signed up for an eight week league which they finished up this spring.
Iain said that while the Learn-to-Curl class entailed a few attempts to curl the stone on the ice and education about the curling signals, the league offered the chance to play a real game. And it was a sport he could enjoy with his daughter. The Curling Club’s activities take place in a facility right behind Sharpstown Mall, about a 20 minute drive from Oak Forest, that is also used for hockey games and figure skating.
For those who didn’t watch it on the Olympics, the How Stuff Works web site shares the basics of curling. It’s a team sport with four members on each side. The object of the game is to get your team’s stones closer to the target — which is a 1-foot diameter circle called the tee or button — than your opponent’s stones. The button is located in the center of a 12-foot bull’s-eye called the house.
Each curler on both teams gets to shoot two stones for a total of 16 stones per end. An end is like an inning in baseball. At the completion of each end, points are tallied. You get one point for each of your team’s stones that is closer to the button than your opponent’s. There are 10 ends in each game of curling, and the team with the most total points wins.
As Iain learned, “it’s a lot harder than it looks, especially the sweeping portion.”
He related his efforts to bear down with the broom, which he describes as more of a scouring pad, and polish the ice to make the stone move more smoothly.
The teams were made up of a skipper and a vice skipper, who were the more experienced players, and then Iain and Ainsley.
The least experienced team member heads on the ice first and the skipper directs them, by calling out instructions, and by signals, which way to curl the stone. That means that you have to both aim it and spin it. There were six games going on simultaneously so the signals were important.
“You never knew when to sweep because six games are going on at one time, and it’s noisy,” said Ainsley.
Iain said that the balance aspect was tricky but that Ainsley was a lot better at it than he was.
“It was a little more of a workout than I expected,” he said. “I was having to get into positions that I wasn’t used to.”
Ainsley agreed that the sport was more challenging than she’d thought it would be too with the effort of the sweeping and how much effort goes into aiming the stone.
“When you are throwing it, you start it turned in the opposite direction and release it at 12 o’clock for it to curl in the direction you want it to go,” she said.
Both father and daughter said it was a good time and they might return in the fall.
Carl Schaeper, president of the Curling Club Of Houston, said they had a large amount of interest right after the Olympics and a lot of membership growth.
“Our club size has tripled,” said Schaeper. “It’s calmed down, but we’re still seeing noticeably more interest now than in an non-Olympic year.”
If you want to join the fun, visit https://houstoncurling.com/. There are Learn-to-Curl classes on Saturday, June 9 and Friday, July 6. Their summer league starts Friday, July 13 and runs through August 24. It is open to both new and experienced curlers.