What is curling?

Curling is a game played on a long sheet of flat ice where the players slide heavy, granite stones towards a target area at the opposite end of the sheet. A game is played between two teams of four players. The head of the team is called the “Skip” and is the most experienced. A game lasts between 8 and 10 ends and an end consists of each team member throwing two rocks, or curling stones, down the ice towards a point chosen by the skip. After all the rocks are thrown to the opposite end of the sheet, the end is over, the score is tallied and a new end begins. Each throw alternates between the two opposing teams.

A 12-foot circle called the house is the scoring area. For each stone closer to the center of the circles than any of the opponent’s stones, one point is scored. The team scoring shoots first in the next end, giving the opponent the “hammer”, or last shot of that end. The playing surface is 15′ 7 1/2″ wide and 146 feet long, set up to accommodate play in both directions. The shooter must be accurate in aim, weight (velocity in delivery) and giving the rock the correct “handle” (or curl).

What are the sweepers for?

The reason you see curlers running like mad after the stone is that sweeping slightly melts the ice, which reduces the friction between the running stone and the ice surface.  The result is the stone will curl less and slide farther. The skip often makes the call on whether or not a rock needs to be swept, and will yell things like “HURRY” or “HARD” if they want the rock to be swept or “OFF” if the rock is going too quickly and doesn’t need any help.  You may also hear the sweepers give information to the skip, saying things like “heavy” or “light” to indicate how fast the rock has been thrown and how it is reacting to the ice.

Why do you pebble the ice?

Unlike Hockey ice, Curling ice is not flat. Curling ice is prepared before games by  sprinkling very small droplets of water on the ice. This is called “pebbling”.  The pebble freezes almost immediately forming small bumps of ice along the entire playing surface. The pebble reduces the amount of contact between the bottom of the rocks and the ice which allows the rocks to slide farther. The curling action of rocks also changes during a game as the pebble evens out from wear.

What is so special about the rocks?

The curling stone or rock used in the game weighs approximately between 39 and 42 lbs and has a special feature on the bottom. The bottom of the rock is not flat, but concave and the actual running surface of the rock is a 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide ring on the concave bottom.  This small running surface allows the pebble applied to the ice to have an effect on the action of the rock. The stones are made of polished granite, and the granite is sourced from two specific quarries called Aisla Craig and Trefor in Scotland.

Who can play it?

Curling is one of the few sports that is open to nearly anyone, regardless of age or ability.  Kids join in from a very young age (as soon as they are big enough to throw a stone) and adults play well into retirement.  For the less mobile, there are plenty of aids that mean you can curl without having to bend down, if you have bad knees, and even wheelchair curling!