Two teams, each with four players, take turns sliding the stones, also known as rocks, across the ice curling sheet toward the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones, with each player throwing two. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game; points are scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones once. A game usually consists of eight or ten ends.
The player can induce a curved path, described as curl, by causing the stone to slowly rotate as it slides. The path of the stone may be further influenced by two sweepers with brooms or brushes, who accompany it as it slides down the sheet and sweep the ice in front of the stone. “Sweeping a rock” decreases the friction, which makes the stone travel a straighter path (with less curl) and a longer distance.
A great deal of strategy and teamwork go into choosing the ideal path and placement of a stone for each situation, and the skills of the curlers determine the degree to which the stone will achieve the desired result.
A curling stone inscribed with the date 1511 was found when an old pond was drained at Dunblane, Scotland. This is the earliest evidence of curling found so far. The world’s oldest curling stone is now kept in the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling, Scotland.
The first written reference to a contest using stones on ice comes from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, in February 1541. Two paintings, “Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap” and “The Hunters in the Snow” (both dated 1565) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, depict Flemish peasants curling; Scotland and the Low Countries had strong trading and cultural links during this period.
The word curling first appears in print in 1620 in Perth, Scotland, in the preface and the verses of a poem by Henry Adamson. The sport was also known as “the roaring game” because of the sound the stones make while travelling across the ice.
Curling has been a medal sport in the Winter Olympic Games since the 1998 Winter Olympics. It currently includes men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles tournaments (the mixed doubles event was held for the first time in 2018).
Curling can provide a good workout for the whole body, requiring balance it increases core strength, flexibility, and coordination. It’s an aerobic sport out in the cold burning more calories whilst walking up and down the ice during the game. The sweeping motion increases heart rate and improves your cardiovascular system. Research has shown that curling can reduce blood pressure. Curling strengthens your legs toning your calves, thighs and buttocks. Curling also strengthens your upper body.
Curling also provides mental stimulation being a highly strategic sport, often compared to chess, and requires planning, strategy and teamwork. Curling is also a very social sport with teams working together. It is also inclusive; men and women and children of all ages and all abilities can participate. Some curling clubs may offer adaptive equipment that allow disabled players to play.
For a complete beginner, the best way to get into the sport is to find your local curling club. Some clubs have spaces of their own dedicated to curling, while others are part of larger rinks that are also used for general ice skating. Once you’ve found a convenient club, many curling clubs will offer classes for beginners to develop the rudimentary skills required to deliver stones and sweep ice.