A stone’s throw: Newcomers get swept up in curling

January 1, 2019

In 2018, the Curling Club of Rochester had about 1,000 people swept up in various leagues, competitions and events.

Kelsey Schuder, president of the club, wants more people involved.

“The more people who learn to curl, the more people who enjoy the sport, the more people interested in our league, the better,” Schuder said.

The past year brought the club new players, new equipment and, as of mid-January, an outdoor ice sheet to play on at Little Thistle Brewing.

What the club doesn’t have is a permanent home.

“Our long-term goal is to have a place where we can have curling events any day of the week,” Schuder said.”Year-by-year, we’re showing we have that demand and interest.”

More people means more demand for such a space and more resources to help make it a reality.

“That’s the plan,” Schuder said. “It sort of has to happen at some point.”

The club hosted two days of “learn to curl” events Saturday and Sunday at the Rochester Recreation Center. The club came away from those events with some potential new players.

“It was a blast,” said Jeff Sobczak. He attended at the suggestion of his wife.

“I’ll definitely do this again,” he added.

Tanmay Iyer had attended an introduction event before, but wanted to get back on the ice again so he secured two tickets for Sunday. One friend who was going with him backed out. He called friend Samuel Olivier with a half-hour notice to invite him along.

“I didn’t even really know what curling was or understand the rules,” Olivier said.

What struck him was the finesse it takes to play, he said.

“It’s about intricate movements — not too much, not too little,” he said. “It’s really different from any other sport.”

The concept is pretty simple, said Duane Hebert, club vice president.

“You’re trying to put a 43-pound block of granite within a quarter of an inch where the skip tells you,” he said.

Learning how to throw the stone — slide that slab of granite across the ice — take a few minutes. Executing it well takes experience and practice.

Curling is also about being social with the team. Players talk to each other as they play, said first-time player Elise McDermott, of Las Vegas.

“I like that social aspect,” she said.

McDermott was in Minnesota visiting family over the holidays and joined the event Sunday at the invitation of her cousin, Kristen Chang, of Rochester.

“It sounded like fun,” McDermott said. “I always like to watch it on the Olympics.”

The U.S. brought home a gold medal in men’s curling from the winter olympics in South Korea in February. The popularity of the sport has enjoyed a lift since then. Club officials plans to continue to build off that bump.

The club kicks off 2019 with a four-week instructional league for beginning players Jan. 6 — 27. Cost to join that league is $50, plus a $20 membership in the Curling Club of Rochester.

For information on that league or other events, visit www.curlrochester.com.

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