Looking for a fun, new experience to spice up these cold winter months in Michigan? I’ve got the perfect suggestion from the #MIAwesomeList – learn to curl at the Kalamazoo Curling Club!
Curling is a social, team sport that you can learn at any age (as long as you can handle a 42-pound stone and lunge across the ice).
As a first-timer, I registered for a 1-hour Learn To Curl (L2C) class and had a blast. Curious about what’s involved in a curling class? Keep reading to find out all the details!
How to Prep For the Learn to Curl Class
When you register online, the Kalamazoo Curling Club recommends these tips to prep for the class:
- Review the basics of curling
- Wear warm, comfortable clothing (jeans not recommended)
- Bring an extra pair of clean athletic shoes to wear on the ice
Besides some casual viewing of curling matches in the Winter Olympics, the sport was brand new to me. If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you’re a curling newbie as well. So, let’s dive into some curling basics together.
How to Curl in 10 Easy Steps
- Locate a 150 feet long by 15 feet wide sheet of ice called the playing surface.
- Form 2 teams of 4 people each.
- Gather 16 round stones weighing 42 pounds and a broom for each player.
- Start the game with a handshake and a coin toss.
- Each player shoots or delivers two stones toward the target on the other end of the playing surface, a 12-foot circle called the house.
- Supporting teammates sweep their brooms back and forth on the ice to help speed up and guide the stone toward the house.
- Alternate back and forth between teams, shooting one stone at a time, until all 16 stones have been delivered.
- The team with the stone closest to the button (the middle of the target) earns a point.
- Play between 8-10 rounds, called ends.
- The team with the most points wins!
What to Wear to a Curling Class
With the directive to wear warm, comfortable clothing in mind, I chose to wear several layers to the curling class.
Here’s everything I wore: 3 layers on top (long-sleeve thermal, fleece zip-up, and softshell jacket), two 2 layers for bottoms (athletic leggings and insulated winter pants), thick socks, and a hat. I wore boots into the building and then changed into a clean pair of running shoes to wear on the ice.
Voila! Warm and comfy for the whole class in a chilly ice arena.
What the Learn To Curl Class Involves
- Check-in and sign a waiver
- Watch a short (2-minute) video introduction to curling
- Divide up into groups of 8 (2 teams of 4 players)
- Learn and practice basic curling techniques
- Play a short game of curling
The Kalamazoo Curling Club is located within the Wings Event Center. At door 11, the Curling Entrance is well marked and easy to find. Through the main doors, there’s a flight of stairs that leads directly down to the curling area.
After checking in, signing an electronic waiver form, and putting on a name tag, we grabbed a seat in the lounge area.
Watch a Short Video Introduction to Curling
The class was led by volunteers from the Kalamazoo Curling Club, who were all super friendly and helpful. You could tell they are passionate about curling and want to encourage others to join in the curling community.
To kick off the class, we watched a 2-minute video explaining the basic rules of curling. Essentially, the same How to Curl in 10 Easy Steps information in cute, animated form.
Divide Into Groups of 8
Our class was sold out which meant we had 40 participants. At the Kalamazoo Curling Club, there are 5 sheets for play that each accommodate a group of 8.
Whether you come as an individual, a couple, or a group, you’ll be paired up with others to complete a full roster of 8. We came as a group of 6 friends and were paired up with another couple to finish our group of 8.
Each group of 8 participants also had 2 Curling Club members as instructors to teach us how to curl. While it was a larger class overall, it was great having 2 instructors dedicated to working with our smaller group the whole time.
Learn and Practice Basic Curling Techniques
Now, let’s learn to curl!
Coming into the curling arena one of the first things I noticed was the ice surface. Instead of the smooth finish of a typical ice rink, curling ice has a dabbled finish called pebble to help with traction. With running shoes on, it was much easier to walk on than on an ice skating rink.
Curling the Stone
To get comfortable maneuvering the heavy, 42-pound stone, we first practiced passing the stone back and forth with a partner a few feet away, giving it a slight twist of the handle.
It takes a little bit of effort to get the heavy stone to move at first, but once it is in motion a light touch goes a long way on the ice.
Delivering the Stone
Next, we practiced getting in the right position to deliver the stone across the playing surface.
As a right-handed player, I placed my right foot in the hack, a rubber starting block similar to what track and field runners use. My left foot went on a slider, which looks like a large shoe insert with a non-stick surface on the bottom to glide the foot down the ice. I leaned on a stabilizer with my left hand and held the stone handle in my right hand.
3, 2, 1… I pushed off with my right foot, lunged with my left foot forward, sliding across the ice, and gently released the stone. It was quite exhilarating! Also, it’s harder than it looks to really control the aim and speed of the stone.
The last skill we practiced was sweeping, which is the most aerobic part of curling. Hustling down the playing surface while vigorously brushing the ice back and forth and trying not to fall, is a bit of a workout.
Play a Short Game of Curling
After we had practiced the basics, it was game time! Blue team versus the yellow team.
My team, the blue team, won the coin toss and chose to go last. That way we would have the last stone of the end, called the hammer, and the last opportunity to score.
On a curling team, there are 4 positions:
- Lead: delivers first using stones 1 & 2
- Second: delivers second using stones 3 & 4
- Vice: delivers third using stones 5 & 6, takes on the skip’s role while the skip is delivering
- Skip: team captain, stands in the house (target area) to guide teammates on where to aim, delivers last using stones 7 & 8
On our team, I was the vice, which was fun because I also got to try out the skip’s role briefly.
For curling newbies, our first end was pretty exciting! Both of our teams managed to deliver stones into the scoring zone, and then knocked each others’ stones out of the way.
In the final positions, there was one blue stone and one yellow stone left, almost exactly the same distance from the button, the center of the house. After careful consideration, we determined the yellow team won by a hair. So close!
Pro Tip: The Learn to Curl class is listed as one hour long, but ours went a little over. There’s a lot to learn in one hour! Add a little extra cushion time if you have plans after the class.
Continue Your Curling Journey By Joining a League
Whether you are an individual seeking community, a couple looking for a fun, active date idea, or a group of friends wanting to try something new, the Learn to Curl class is an awesome way to spend a winter afternoon.
If you want to continue your curling journey, the Kalamazoo Curling Club has league options from beginners on up. Definitely, a fun, new hobby to explore within the welcoming curling community!