by Ilina Ewen
photographs by Missy McLamb
Begun with the Scots in the sixteenth century, it is hailed as one of the world’s oldest – and coldest – sports. But that hasn’t stopped the recent and unlikely renaissance of the sport of curling, traced in no small part to the gaudy pants that the Norwegian team wowed the world with at the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014.
As with so many things, Triangle athletes are gung-ho about the sport, and also ahead of the curve. Our area’s early adopters have been hooked since before 1995, when they founded the Triangle Curling Club.
Despite the fact that we live in an unlikely spot for a game created to pass the time during frigid, bleak winters, these folks have warmed to the sport that celebrates strategy and sportsmanship. They’ve loved it so much they even built their own dedicated curling facility, which opened its doors in Research Triangle Park in April 2015.
“After the 2014 Winter Olympics, I searched social media to see if there was anywhere to curl in the Triangle,” says Chris Barry, 45. “To my surprise, I found the Triangle Curling Club.” He’s been playing for a year and says it didn’t take long to “fall in love.” Because the sport combines “strategy, balance, and athleticism,” he says, “I’m always learning.”
If you’ve never seen it, curling is a little bit like life-sized chess on ice. It involves a broom – yes, a broom – and a 40-pound polished granite stone. Players furiously sweep at the stone, but they’re graceful and patient about it, with legs and knees bent in long strides. It’s not a sport for the impulsive or overzealous.
While some compare it to shuffleboard, curling’s strategy and teamwork are far more complicated than that Lido deck pastime.
“You can learn how to curl in a couple hours, but you never stop learning how to improve,” says Joe Mecca of the Triangle Curling Club. “There’s a strategic element to the game that’s, in a way, far more important than the physical side. We practice making our shots, but we also have to learn which shots to call. The strategy evolves as both teams adapt to each other’s gameplay.”
Indeed, the game’s tactical challenges keep its players on their toes. Unlike many sports with dedicated positions, in curling, the four players that comprise a team take turns as both thrower and sweeper.
“It never gets old telling people that you curl,” says Mike Russell, 47. “The sport is physically and mentally challenging, but not so difficult that you can’t play in a league without having years of experience.”
In fact, Triangle Curling Club members are as young as 12 and as old as 80. Currently, young members play in the novice league alongside adults who are new to the sport, but the Club hopes to develop a formal youth program in the near future. The Club even accommodates wheelchair curlers.
All you need to get started are warm, loose-fitting clothes and soft-soled shoes like sneakers. The Club provides the rest.
Do you have the itch to don a warm wool sweater and some sliders or grippers to hit the curling sheet? Learn to Curl events run through April, and the facility is available for private group rentals. Check the schedule on trianglecurling.com. Follow the Triangle Curling Club on Twitter (@trianglecurling) and Facebook (facebook.com/trianglecurling) to stay abreast of goings-on at the rink. You can even host group events like company team building exercises or private parties.