Have you tried: Curling?
Invented in Scotland, curling is a game played on ice. Large round flat stones are slid across the surface towards a target area.
Members of a pair or team use brooms to sweep the surface of the ice in the path of the stone to control its speed and direction.
The aim is to get a stone to be the closest to the centre of the target.
The history of curling
Curling was first played Scotland on frozen ponds and lochs in the 16th century.
The first curling stones, dating back as far as 1511, came from Stirling and Perth, and in the 1600s, players began using stones with handles.
In the 19th century, curling became the country’s most popular game with play taking place in winter on more than 2000 lochs and ponds.
Famously, in 1979 the Lake of Menteith, Sirlingshire, played host to 2500 curlers for a Grand Match.
In 2010, another much-hoped-for match had to be called off at the same location because of weather safety fears.
In more recent times, curling has moved indoors for better reliability of conditions.
There are more than 20 man-made ice rinks across Scotland with curling facilities and this is where curlers train and play matches.
Today, the sport is most firmly established in many other countries, especially in Canada, the US, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, as well as Japan, China, and Korea.
In 1959, the first World Curling Championships was played out for men, with women joining the annual contest in 1979. There has been a European Champs since the 1970s.
Curling was first played as a demonstration sport in the Winter Olympics in 1924 and in 1998 it became an official Olympics sport.
Scotland’s many home-grown curlers, including champions such as Rhona Martin, Eve Muirhead, David Murdoch and Aileen Nielson, have amassed a fine collection of medals at European, World and Olympics levels.
Their success is believed to have boosted the popularity of the sport at grassroots levels.
Following the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, Try Curling sessions organised by Scottish Curling saw a five-fold increase in participation.
Why try curling?
Curling is very inclusive and can be played and enjoyed equally well by people of all ages and abilities.
It offers the chance for learning new skills and also some healthy completion and challenges.
Iain Reekie is a keen curler with Bearsden Ski Club Curling section.
He said: “Head along to a curling session at a local ice rink and you will see the ice sheets are full of players of all sorts of shapes, sizes, age groups and fitness levels.
“It does help to be moderately fit if you need to vigorously sweep a stone into a preferred potion but you don’t have to be ‘athletic’ to play and enjoy curling.”
Curling might look quite easy, especially you have seen the professionals playing on TV, but there are skills to learn.
Iain said: “At first, people should attend a taster or beginner session to se if they like the sport. Most do and become hooked on curling.
“Then, regular coaching at a club helps people get to grips with how the game is played and the various tactics.
“Curling is a very strategic game. It’s like an energetic version of ‘chess on ice’.
“There are endless permutations on how best to outwit the opposition, such as by aiming to take out an opponent’s stone or by draw a stone.
“These strategic decisions are taken by the team’s skip, but they must rely on other players in the team to execute their instructions to the best of their ability.”
Iain reports that the sport is friendly and “sporting”. He said: “Curling is a very sociable team game with a big emphasis on sportsmanship and good manners.
“Sure, the game requires an element of skill, precision and accuracy as well as some hard graft from sweeping the stones, but more importantly, for me, it’s the sense of camaraderie that pervades the sport.
“After a hard fought game, most players retire to the curling bar for a wee refreshment and a usually jovial post game analysis.”
Where can I learn curling?
This article appeared in my Sunday Mail column. Read the pdf.