It has been called “chess on ice,” and it never fails to bring in a multitude of interested and curious viewers when it is played at the winter olympics. But we all are wonder – what is curling? Are there rules? How do you win? And who came up with throwing rocks across ice?
Well it turns out that there is an answer to all of these questions and more, and the truth may just shock you.
Started by the Scotts
The winter sure is long all the way up in Scotland. It is also super cold. So, when there is nothing to do at all, and ice skating just doesn’t cut it, what else is there to do but slide rocks along the ice for as far as you can?
Well, this is exactly what some enterprising young Scotsman did sometime in the early 1500s, and the world simply has not been able to get enough of it.
Nowadays, you can’t just use any old rock you find on the ground in order to go curling, and you can’t just use any pond to play the sport either. After 500 years some rules for the sport have been instituted.
For instance, you need to get a specialized granite rock which was mined in either a single quarry in Wales or a single quarry in Scotland, and each must weigh between 36 and 44 pounds. Additionally, you need a broom to sweep the ice, and specialized shoes so that you can run on the ice without slipping. Finally, you need a piece of ice 150 ft by 16 ft with a bullseye on either end.
How do you play? Pt. 1
Now that you know that curling was started by Scots who were bored out of their minds, you will notice that the point of the game is shockingly simple. You need to get as many of your stones as close to the center of the bullseye (in the house in curling terms) as possible. Each ring represents a different number of points, with the bullseye being worth the most.
But this requires strategy, as you need to know where to shoot the stones, how to shoot them, and anticipate your opponent’s’ actions as well.
How do you play? Pt. 2
The actual gameplay is quite interesting. The act of “throwing” the rock is called delivery. A stone is usually pushed by the captain of the team after pushing off from what looks like runners blocks dug into the ice. The captain will slide with the stone until they are ready to release it.
This is where those weird people with the brooms come in. Called “sweeping,” This is integral to the game. The sweepers are there to make the ice as smooth as possible and help direct the stone where to go as it is moving. Without these people, the stone would fly off in any old direction.
Who plays it?
It is estimated that approximately 1,500,000 people play curling and are in curling clubs around the world. The game was brought to Canada and the United States by Scottish immigrants. In fact, the oldest and longest running sports club in North America is actually the Montreal Curling club, established in 1807.
Curling has expanded from Scotland, and there are now clubs in Japan, the United States, Switzerland, Sweden, China, and even Australia. From a Scottish highlands game to pass the time in winter, curling has become an international phenomenon. Now you’ll know what you’re seeing when you see people throw rocks across ice in the winter olympics.