Sunday, February 28, 2010

Austin Rocks On Ice

When txrad told me that our Austin curling club was having an open house this morning (as well as next Sunday) and offering curling lessons, I knew I had to be in on this. The ice rink is less than 19 miles from our house and with 9AM traffic on Sunday being very light, we got there in 25 minutes. I knew from the number of cars in the parking lot we were in for quite an event.

I didn't know what to expect in terms of a crowd, but I guessed on the very low side there would be about 70, and maybe 200 or 250 tops on the high side.

It was insane.

Once I was inside and assessed the situation, I knew I wasn't going to bother with the battle to get on the ice to throw a rock, much to my dismay. I'm guessing there were around 450-500 people there by my very rough estimate.

I heard one of the club members say they had expected about 60 or 70. By the time we got in the door we were instructed to sign an injury waiver at a table. This was one of the reasons for the backlog in getting inside. I couldn't even see the table, and getting there required nudging my way through a line already forming for the lessons.

I also heard someone say they had 200 name tags and were already out of those. I figure they had expected that number of name tags to last through this Sunday's and next Sunday's Open House.

Curling wanna-bes were allowed out in groups of about 8 or 10, and there were about four, maybe five, groups at each end of the rink. The sessions lasted about 20 minutes each.

This instructor was giving pointers on the correct position of the body in the hack prior to the throw. What was most disappointing for me was the presence of thick plexiglass surrounding the rink. It muffled sound and I really could not hear a word being spoken by the instructors.

After about 8 minutes or so of verbal instruction, the fun really began as people made the first rock throw of their lives. And I don't think most of these people had ever been on ice before. At least I would have had that experience under my belt since I took ice skating lessons in college. Still, I haven't been on ice in 25 years.

But I don't mean to laugh at them. I know it's not easy. Olympic curlers make the trip up to the hog line where they release the stone look easy, but I knew that would be a challenge for anyone the first time out. This is why I wanted to try it, to fully grasp how athletic the sport is, despite the appearance of ease.

After watching a number of people of all ages struggle with sliding on one foot, and the coordination required to maintain that balance, and concentration prior to releasing the rock, I had a pretty good idea what it would feel like to be out there.

One thing I wasn't expecting was to see someone I know there. Not long after getting inside, txrad and I were standing on a bench for a better view of the ice and I felt someone tap me as she walked by. It was the woman you see above, in white. We both worked at the same advertising agency back in 2007. Her throw was pretty good!

Around 11:00 we decided to leave and grab some lunch. Maybe next Sunday I'll give this another shot and hope for a smaller crowd. If so, I'd better get back on my exercise regimen, practicing some crouching and stretching.

Tools of the trade: rocks, brooms and sliders.

Here's a few short video clips I captured. Remember, most of the noise you hear is from the crowded narrow room behind me. It was very hard to hear anything from the ice due to the thick plexiglass and the constant chatter of a few hundred people crammed into a tight space.

The Screamer:


Let Go of the Rock:

Slip-Sliding Away:

The Wobbler:

Sweepers Sweeping:

Finally, from YouTube, I found the curling club's membership director in a brief interview about her interest and experience in curling.

Happy curling!

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