If you casually flip the TV over to curling, you might not be sure if you’ve stumbled onto elite athletic endeavours or a domestic dispute. After all, there is a whole lot of yelling and people are scrubbing the ice like they just smashed a bottle of red wine. You might find yourself wondering… Have they lost the plot? Are ALL curlers this nutty?
We are here to tell you we curlers are not crazy or angry. Today in our curling questions and answers series, we’re going to talk about the yelling and the sweeping. We’ll tell you why we do it, and why it’s even pretty fun. So without further ado, let’s get to your questions.
This post is part of a series called "Curling — What the Heck?" The goal is to answer all the questions people have about Curling, especially if they have never played the game before. If you'd like your question answered, feel free to comment here or on our Facebook page. Or, you could just come out to our FREE upcoming Learn to Curl sessions.
Q: What is with all the shouting? I’m not sure I could take someone yelling at me like that.
A: It’s all about communication. Now, now, hear us out, before you think we need to be in counselling.
A curling rink is very loud. In fact, some people have called it “The Roaring Game.” As the heavy granite rocks glide across the ice, they do indeed roar, very loudly. But it’s not just one rock at a time. Since most rinks have multiple sheets of ice side by side (The Shelburne Curling Club has 4, which is pretty typical), you can have multiple rocks roaring and crashing around at the same time.
The skips (those are the ones yelling) need to be LOUD if they want their sweepers to actually hear them over all the other noise. The sweepers need the guidance because as they move with the stone, heads down, they can’t really tell where the shot will end up. The skip has the bird’s eye view to see the rock approach to the house. They need to let their teammates know the strategy on the fly.
As for why you’ll catch them stuck on repeat, it’s the clearest way to keep the sweepers in the loop. Remember, it’s loud and distracting out there. The skip could change their mind in an instant and call the sweepers “OFF” after going “HAAAARD.” Surprisingly, it’s easier to pick up on a change in words than going straight from silence.
And their...ahem, exuberance? Well, the skips have the power to make the call, but the broom isn’t in their hands. They want to do all they can, and well, that means offering more encouragement (in the form of volume). As a sweeper, you really do tend to “hurry harder” when you can hear the urgency in your skip’s voice.
This may all be hard to fathom unless you spend some time on the ice yourself, but the important thing to note is NO ONE IS MAD. It’s just all about excitement and being heard. And that is — believe it or not — FUN!
Q: OK, so the skips are yelling at the other guys to sweep. But does sweeping really do anything or are they just trying to keep the extra players busy?
Sweeping, also called brushing, makes a huge difference. Curlers have long recognised sweeping affects where a rock ends up. First off, sweeping makes a rock go further. This is important when you need guards (shots aimed in front of the house) to get past the hog line and for bringing draw shots (ones aimed at sitting inside the house) as close to the button as possible. Secondly, sweeping makes a rock curl less. This is key for getting around guards and also ensuring takeout shots (meant to knock the opponent’s rock out of play) hit the target.
The harder you can press your brush into the ice and the more strokes you can take, the more influence you will have over the rock — hence the term “Hurry Hard!” A vigorous sweep is hard work, but the feeling you get helping your teammate’s shot squeak by your opponent to score makes it all worthwhile. Way more fun than sweeping your kitchen floor!
Q: Hmmm, I’m not sure I can handle vigorous sweeping. After all my back bothers me just sweeping my house (I swear Honey!). Does that count me out of curling?
You can definitely still curl at the Shelburne Curling Club! We welcome curlers of all abilities, and have many low-pressure social leagues to choose from. We also have 2 on 2 leagues which require less sweeping in general. Even in our competitive leagues there is a lot of variation in sweeping power. Everybody has different strengths to offer.
We can’t promise you won’t hear your skip yell, “Sweeeeeep!!!” — it’s kind of an ingrained habit — but you are always free to stay within your limits.
Q: OK I’m set to try. Shall I bring out my old witch’s broom from Halloween?
No need. While you may remember seeing people curling with corn brooms 20 or 30 years ago, modern brushes are quite different. Much more like Swiffer sweepers, they are lightweight, synthetic, and often have a pivoting head. These features make sweeping easier and more effective.
If you decide to come curl with the Shelburne Curling Club, you don’t need to invest in a broom until you want to. We have plenty of brooms available for all our curler’s to borrow.
Ready to give some sweeping a try? Come out to our Learn to Curl sessions taking place October 22-26 at 7 pm. Our instructors will show you the basic sweeping technique, and we promise, they won’t even yell at you. To sign up go to www.shelburnecurling.ca/try-curling or call the club at (519) 925-2011.