Learn to Curl an icy lesson that Olympics for me are far, far away (Opinion)
I thought curling looked pretty easy.
I can now completely, absolutely and whole-heartedly say I was wrong, although, I was told by an instructor from Lake Tahoe Epic Curling that I was a quick learner.
If catching on quick is sliding on both knees and falling on my face right after releasing the rock much too hard, then I am a budding all-star.
I first was introduced to curling during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.
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I was sitting on my couch at 2 a.m. watching Team USA play against Canada and my first thought was, “How did I not know this was an Olympic sport?” and then, “How in the world is this an Olympic sport?”
It looked like something I could do if given, say, a few weeks of training.
My former work schedule presented the opportunity to watch a lot of that tournament. Unfortunately, I saw that the Americans weren’t that good and lost most of their matches.
But I was hooked on watching seemingly ordinary people compete for gold medals. My wife also enjoyed it during the 2018 Olympics.
We have wondered how hard it would be to play and what better time to learn.
LTEC recently opened a new center off Kingsbury Grade in Stateline, Nevada, in the same building as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and offers periodic Learn to Curl classes. The group formerly used the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena, but moved to a location that is strictly about curling.
My wife and I signed up for a class in February.
Curling is similar to shuffleboard, but it’s a full-body event.
Being left-handed I stepped onto the block with my left foot and grabbed the rock with my left hand. With the right hand I held on to a plastic slider for balance.
The idea is to push off and glide on the ice, release the 40-pound granite rock with a slight spin, or curl, have it slide on the ice for over 100 feet and land in a 12-foot circle called the “House.”
There are also teammates that “sweep” in front of the moving rock as needed. Sweeping helps the rock stay at speed and lessens the curl.
After my first effort, my Olympic hopes were dashed.
I envisioned how they do it on TV, what the instructor was telling us, and tried to replicate it.
I pushed off the block and neither knee rose to the occasion. So there I was off-balance and sliding on both knees while trying to concentrate on my target.
I quickly lost my balance, and desperately slid the rock down the ice at the stern pace, like a 100-foot putt that’s headed way past the hole and off the green. The slider in my right hand slid out and down I went, shoulder, then cheek into the ice.
My form slowly improved over the two hours to the point where I put a couple inside the house and also drew applause when I knocked three rocks out of the circle with a loud collision that echoed inside the arena. I’m not sure that’s where I was aiming, but I’ll take it.
I was also chastised a few times for doing rookie things. A few times I left my knee down on the ice after sliding. The warmth from my knee would melt the ice surface fairly quickly and create a divot, something you definitely don’t want on a smooth sheet of ice.
I also pulled a bigger no-no. During an opponent’s turn, in mid-slide, I crossed the ice about 40 feet in front of him, right before he let go of the rock.
I was only trying to offer sweeping help, but that was not a viable excuse.
“It doesn’t matter, that’s like yelling during someone’s backswing in golf, you can’t do that,” I was told, deservedly so, in a way that I, Will, Never, Forget.
My team of four won our short match, 3-2, over three ends and at the end we kind of looked like we knew what we were doing.
Overall, I had a blast. It was a good, social time with people of all ages rooting for each other. And after we all enjoyed beverages together in “Rick’s Libation Station” just outside the ice area.
LTEC hopes to form some kind of beginner’s league in late March if there is enough interest.
Children 12 and above are welcome with a parent or guardian.
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