Newcomers sweep in to give curling a shot at Seattle club
The Granite Curling Club in Seattle is holding open houses to tap into the growing interest around curling with the Winter Olympics. The Curling Club is the only club of its kind west of North Dakota and south of Alaska.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Granite Curling ClubOpen houses: The Granite Curling Club is hosting open houses on Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-noon; and Saturday, March 27, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Cost: $15 per person, $40 maximum per family. Granite Curling Club, 1440 N. 128th St., Seattle, 206-362-2446
The only dedicated curling club west of North Dakota and south of Alaska sits in a plain, white building off Aurora Avenue North. It's a place where ice is a very serious matter, where people marvel over lightweight brooms with carbon-fiber handles, and where curlers wear shoes with a Teflon sole for sliding.
Yes, Seattle has a curling crowd. A big one. The 49-year-old Granite Curling Club has more than 400 members and boasts 36 national championship teams. U.S. Olympian Nicole Joraanstad learned to curl here, members say.
Most days, the talk of pebbles, the "house" and stones is contained to club members. Then every four years, the Winter Olympics roll onto people's television screens and curling gains cache. (Google even gave curling a nod on its homepage recently, with an image of curling stones.)
The Granite Curling Club takes advantage of the surge of interest with open houses. More than 300 people showed up to a Saturday open house, and dozens more tried out the sport on Sunday. There are other curling clubs in the state, according to U.S.A. Curling, but Granite is the only club with ice specifically for curling, said open-house organizer April Gale-Seixeiro.
The club's ice, which is graded and sprinkled with water daily to create "pebbles" on the surface, takes a beating with all the newcomers tromping around, but it's worth it, Gale-Seixeiro said.
"We all love the game, so we're pleased to share it," she said.
On Sunday, the club lobby bustled with volunteers who brushed dirt off people's shoe soles, flicked out rocks stuck in shoe treads with a screwdriver and handed out rubber grippers for shoes. Instructors led a mix of adults and kids through stretches, including deep lunges, before taking them out to a lane.
Once on ice, instructors helped beginners position themselves in the "hack," or foothold, and balance themselves before pushing forward in the deep lunge and glide required to launch the 42-pound stone down the 146-foot sheet of ice. The newcomers also learned to gently spin the rock to make it curl or curve.
Curlers work in teams of four, and once a rock is thrown, two sweepers work furiously to create friction, warm the ice and ease the stone's path, helping it go farther or curl less to skim past other rocks. Rocks thrown accurately stop in the bull's-eye target at the other end of the ice, and teams win points for each stone closer to the center than their opponents'.
"It's extremely satisfying to let that rock go and have it go exactly where you want it to go," Gale-Seixeiro said.
If you're new to curling, comparisons to bar games like shuffleboard and pool come to mind, except icier and more complicated. But it's also physical and much harder than it looks.
Christopher Bachmann had seen curling on TV and wanted to try it out to celebrate his birthday. After getting off the ice, he said he liked the cerebral aspect of the game.
"You're trying to aim people's shots strategically," he said. "But none of us could pull those off."
Akiko Kurachi, 32, of Seattle, there for the birthday celebration, said, "It's sort of like Twister."
Both throwing and sweeping required a lot of finesse, they said. They stuck with fundamentals: sweep when the rock is moving slowly, don't sweep when it's fast.
"We were just trying to keep up with it," Kurachi said.
The club is extending its normal season through June in hopes of keeping the Olympics curling momentum going. The club also hosts leagues and tournaments called "Bonspiels."
"We had to do something to make it sound cool," joked club member Neil Enns, of the term Bonspiel.
Club members lounged on couches in front of a television upstairs in the club Sunday to watch the Olympics curling match between Canada and the U.S. women's teams, commenting "ouch" on bad shots or "oh, that's a nice shot." It was a rough match for the U.S. — the women's team lost 9-2.
In addition to more open houses, the club is hosting viewing parties for the medal rounds for men's and women's curling scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
"We'll all be yelling at the TV," Gale-Seixeiro said.
Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or email@example.com
Information in this article, originally published February 21, 2010, was corrected February 26, 2010. A previous version of this story incorrectly incorrectly described what happens to a curling rock during sweeping, when curlers sweep the ice to help control the rock. Sweeping helps a rock curl less, not more
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.