The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Rookie’s Guide to Sports: Curling

    When I watched the Winter Olympics back in 2006, I thought curling was a bogus, non-sport activity that didn’t really belong at the Olympics. Harsh, right?

    But by the 2010 Olympics I had matured a little, gained some of that “open-mindedness” college is supposed to help you acquire, and I realized that I didn’t hate curling. In fact, I thought curling was downright intriguing.

    This past Monday evening, I stopped by the Eau Claire Curling Club’s Open House to learn a little more about this shuffleboard-on-ice sport. Turns out, I love curling.

    Fellow staffer Emily Gresbrink accompanied me to the open house, which was hosted at the Eau Claire County Exhibition Center on the South side of town (5530 Fairview Drive).

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    Emily and I ended up in a group with UW-Eau Claire English professors Kelly Wonder and Jasmine Krotzman, both of whom had been in a league recently and were back to brush up on their curling skills.

    Our group’s patient instructors were husband-wife duo Tom and Pam Janssen; Pam said she has been curling in Eau Claire for around 19 years. I thought that this curling thing was new to our city, but the club has actually been around for over 50 years.

    Emily and I planned on staying for only an hour, but we had so much fun it wasn’t until almost 90 minutes had passed that we first even thought to check the time.

    We spent the entire time working on “delivering the rock.” If you’ve seen any curling on TV, this is when one player starts in a crouch with the stone in one hand and a “broom” in another for stability, pushes off from the “hack,” slides forward and eventually releases the rock at the right angle and speed.

    Delivering the rock might sound pretty easy, but remember that you’re on ice – not only do you have to worry about keeping your feet, you also have to focus on releasing the rock (which weighs just over 40 pounds) at the right time with the correct angle, spin and speed. It’s a lot to think about at once.

    After a few attempts at delivering the rock, the Janssens added another level of difficulty: sweeping. While one person stayed at the hack to deliver the rock, the rest of our group members moved further down the sheet with special curling brooms to “sweep” the ice in front of the rock.

    Now when I say broom, I don’t mean your standard household broom. The brooms used in curling feel more like a very dense foam, and they’re used to smooth out the ice in front of the rock to help it glide farther.

    As soon as the rock is released, the team’s “skipper” calls out to the two sweepers, letting them know whether or not they should be sweeping. When they do call for you to sweep, they mean business. My heart rate was flying as Emily and I frantically swept the ice while running to stay in front of the rock.

    Yes, I said running … on ice. I take back everything I said before about curling not being a sport – it was much more of a workout and coordination challenge than I anticipated. Overall, Emily preferred the sweeping, while I quite enjoyed delivering the rock, especially when we were asked to try to aim at different targets.

    Emily and I are pretty much sold on the sport. We liked curling so much, we may or may not have already begun secret plans to form a Spectator staff league.

    League teams meet one night per week and are filling quickly, so sign up now if you are interested. There is even a Sunday night beginners league that meets for just half a season. For more information about curling, or to join a league, visit the Eau Claire Curling Club website at

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    Rookie’s Guide to Sports: Curling