Slipping, Sliding, Sweeping: A Photo Story From The Lansing Curling Club’s Open House

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The Lansing Curling Club held an open house event on Friday, Jan. 21, where anyone could sign up to come and try their hand at the centuries-old Caledonian sport. ELi’s Andrew Graham tagged along with his camera — and some sure footing — to capture the fun for ELi.

Photos and text by Andrew Graham.

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That’s club president Mitch Raeck, speaking to the assembled curlers. Most have been on ice before, either on skates or walking to their cars, as Raeck learns from soliciting raised hands. Curling, though, is relatively foreign to those in attendance.

Before anyone gets on the ice, Raeck goes over the basics like “ice is slippery” and “don’t walk backwards” — things that are seemingly obvious to avoid doing but easy to do once the sweeping begins. Eventually, after going over the topline items and ensuring everyone has at least one shoe with an over-the-sole gripper, because “ice is slippery,” it’s time to get on the ice.

While Raeck introduced the guests to the evening’s activities, other members of the club — Chris Carrier and Ian Mays pictured here, in blue — prepped the ice for curling. Along with needing to paint the “houses” — the circles where curlers aim the stones — on the ice and lock in footing blocks to push off from on the other end, the ice needed to be “pebbled.”

The event on Friday was held at Suburban Ice, which is most commonly used for hockey and figure skating, where a smooth sheet of ice is preferred. For curling, a mildly bumpy or “pebbled” ice surface is preferred, because it helps keep the stones sliding and greatly aids the ability to make them turn or “curl” — as the sport is named. 

Carrier walks along with a sprayer, directing water upwards to evenly splatter the ice and form some pebbles. Now, it’s time to take the ice.

At first, after getting acclimated to lower friction, the new curlers start small by just pushing off. Still, results varied.

But with more instruction and patience… 

…things start to come together.

Eventually, the time comes to start learning how to “curl” the stones.

Then, it’s time to practice the “curl” part of “curling” by passing the stones back and forth with a bit of spin on them.

Next step is putting the push off and the curl together into one motion.

Third: Bust out the brooms. It’s time to learn to sweep, though there are no bristles on these brooms — the business end is a firm cushion covered in a synthetic, canvas-like material designed for slightly melting the ice to keep the stone speeding toward the target.

Even as the newbies become novices, there are still spills.

Because, after all, “ice is slippery.”

Persistence pays, though, as the throws go further and the sweepers figure out the right pace to keep up.

And eventually, some nearly full-fledged curling breaks out.

While no official score was kept, it’s a worthwhile exercise to tally up the theoretical score, to learn the system. 

In simple terms: Points are awarded for the number of stones closer to the center than the opposing teams’ closest stone. So, for example, if Team A finishes with two stones closer to the center of the house than the closest stone of Team B, Team A gets two points. 

For the group of first-timers on Friday, though, the score was less important than staying upright.

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