When it comes to slightly bizarre sports, curling is right up there with the best of them. As popular as it is - being a well-supported Olympic sport - it’s not the best understood of activities.
Where did curling come from, and why is it so popular?
Where Did Curling Come From?
As one of the worlds’ oldest team sports, curling hails from 16th century Scotland. The icy weather enjoyed by our northern friends allowed for a range of winter games to be played on frozen ponds and lochs, including throwing a 20 kg piece of granite across the ice.
Very much like the ever-popular game of bowls, the point of the game is to get the stone closest to the target, known as a “house.” At the same time, each team will want to knock the opposing teams’ stones away from the target to minimise their score.
While the sport may appear to be based on brute strength and the ability to cope with sub-zero temperatures, a great deal of skill is required to master curling.
The Science Behind the Stone
The best curling stones are by no means a lump of rock but are crafted from a very specific granite found only in parts of Wales and Scotland. This strong, impact-resistant element is honed by experts into a smooth, hard-wearing piece of sporting equipment.
Understanding how this smooth and heavy piece of granite is going to behave on the ice is a question of physics, the details of which will make your head spin. Suffice it to say, that the direction and motion of the curling stone are predominately influenced by the texture of the ice, the amount of liquid in the path of the stone, and the rotation of the stone when it’s thrown.
The Science of Sweeping
Probably one of the most puzzling elements in the sport of curling is watching the team position themselves just in front of the stone as it’s shot, furiously sweeping the ice until the stone stops.
The reason for this is fascinating!
Sweeping the ice changes the trajectory and speed of the stone as it travels, albeit by the smallest of margins. However, these few centimetres tend to be the deciding factor in a game of curling, certainly at a professional level.
The sweeping action removes any dirt or debris from the surface and warms up the ice creating a thin film of water. This wafer-thin surface reduces friction and makes the rock curl less and move a little straighter.
Curling as a Sport
As we can see, curling requires so much more than a strong right arm. The skill and fitness levels required are quite remarkable. Consider the following:
Sweepers will use their weight to push down on the broom while sweeping but will also need to move the brush very quickly requiring strong torso, arm and back muscles.
The shooter will certainly need a strong arm, but will also require a keen eye, excellent balance and muscle control.
“That lunge, the slide - that really takes flexibility and balance, stamina and strength. But the real trick is recovering after sweeping in order to throw that stone.” So says Ann Swisshelm, the U.S. 2014 Olympic Curling lead. (Source) She says further, “Over the years we’ve been adding a significant level of strength training. There’s now an emphasized focus on “your quads, your hamstrings, your glutes - getting those as strong as possible.”
“Shoulder and upper body strength are vital for Sweeping and lower body strength is vital for a good Delivery technique. Core strength and overall flexibility are also very important.” (Source)
That Sounds Like Fun!
If you weren’t convinced before, we’re sure that you’re keen to try your hand at curling. It’s a wonderfully fun team sport which the whole family can enjoy.
But you’re probably thinking, “It’s the height of summer, where am I going to go curling?”
3You’ll be pleased to know that Ice Magic hires and sells both synthetic ice rinks which are perfect for curling, as well as stand-alone curling lanes which can be set up anywhere in the country.
Why not consider adding a curling lane to your next corporate event, or as a fantastic drawcard for a fundraiser?
Please feel free to call the friendly team at Ice Magic to answer any of your questions on hiring or purchasing a curling lane.
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Our corporate event was a great success and the rink was kept busy throughout. I was extremely pleased with the level of service we received from your team on site and would very much like to work with you again in the future.