Matt Margosian, of Racine, prepares to push a granite stone during a recent game at the Racine Curling Club (Jason Arndt/The Report).

Curling attracts fans from far and wide

By Jason Arndt
Editor

For some people, curling is more than just a sport, it is a way for them to socialize.

The social sport, according to the United States Curling Association, is an activity where players slide 42-pound granite stones down a sheet of ice toward a target, known as the “house.”

 

David Bemus and his wife, Gail Armstrong, have found joy in curling as members of the Racine Curling Club (Submitted/The Report).

Using a broom, players sweep the ice to increase the distance, or direct the stone’s path towards the target.

Players, or teams, score more points against a competitor by positioning their stone closer to the target.

David Bemus, of Twin Lakes, has been involved in curling for more than 20 years and said scoring is similar to bocce ball.

Bemus, whose wife Gail Armstrong also plays, said the two were introduced to the sport many years ago.

“Gail has been playing this since junior high, she started with her family in Highland Park,” Bemus said. “I have been maybe in this sport for about 27 years. I started in 1992 at the Chicago Curling Club in Northbrook.”

The two, meanwhile, hone their skills as members of the Racine Curling Club.

Armstrong said curling, which is a sanctioned Olympic sport, is more common than people believe in Wisconsin.

“As a matter of fact, it is not that rare, there are 34 curling clubs in the state of Wisconsin,” she said. “There are 34 curling clubs in the country known as the Soviet Union and they are in the Olympics.”

The Racine Curling Club, one of only three in Southeast Wisconsin, has drawn in members from communities west of Interstate 94, notably Racine and Kenosha counties.

Additionally, one member travels to the club from Lake County, Ill., Armstrong said.

“We have lots of members that are from west of Interstate 94. My team is from Twin Lakes, there are several people from the Burlington area,” she said.

“People come pretty darn far.”

Social sport
At the Racine Curling Club, where there are more than 100 members, Armstrong said the pro-social environment and quality ice surface brings people in.

She compares the lure to golf courses, noting golfers seek an ideal playing surface, which the Racine Curling Club has.

“Curling is a very social sport and the reason that many people belong to the Racine Curling Club is that we have quality ice, it is like golf courses, you want to have a good surface.”

Bemus agreed, adding the club caters to people of all ages, regardless of athletic ability.

Bemus said one member is 87 years old.

“It is a sport for all ages, once you get the fundamentals down, you can curl anywhere and with anybody,” he said. “That is the beauty of this. It is a wonderful sport.”

Learn to curl
Racine Curling Club offers ‘learn to curl’ events for people interested in taking on the sport.

Learn to curl events, which typically happen on Sundays, consists of watching a video and receiving instruction from someone like Chris Rank.

Rank, of Round Lake, Ill., is one of many instructors teaching newcomers the craft.

According to Bemus, instruction takes anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours.

“What that is, is a brief two-hour introduction to curling,” he said, adding prospective members watch a video before they take the ice.

“The video tells you all of the techniques in curling,” he said.

Unlike the Olympics, where professionals make the sport appear easy, Bemus said curling could present a challenge for some people.

However, anyone can tackle the challenge, he said.

“The funniest thing people say is that the people on television make it look simple,” he said. “But, then they get out there and use muscles they have never used before.”

“There is good cardiovascular exercise with the sweeping,” he said.

“You can get your physical exercise here, and you can meet some new people, so it is camaraderie,” he said.

Olympic gains
Since last year’s Winter Olympics, when Madison’s Matt Hamilton garnered a gold medal for the United States, people have become more aware of the sport.

The awareness, said Armstrong, has led to an influx of new members.

“We have more than 100 members,” she said. “We gained about 25 new people as a result of last year’s Olympics.”

Reasonable prices
The Racine Curling Club offers the needed equipment for anyone looking to try the sport.

Equipment consists of granite stones, a broom, sliders for the feet, with gloves and specialized pants optional.

Bemus and Armstrong each recommend arriving to any curling club with a clean pair of tennis shoes and loose-fitting clothes.

For people looking to buy their own equipment, prices vary based on what each person seeks, but brooms typically cost anywhere from $70 to $135.

“You can buy as little, or as much, as you want,” he said.

Because Racine Curling Club operates on volunteers, membership dues are reasonable, Armstrong said.

“It is an all-volunteer club, nobody is paid to do anything at this club,” she said, adding members are responsible for maintenance, cleanup and other tasks.

“Because we do it that way, our dues are very reasonable.”

The annual membership fee for adults is $125 while juniors pay $36.

League play, meanwhile, costs an extra $103 for adults. Prices are reduced for first- and second-year members.

Unique location
Since there are less than a handful of curling clubs in southeast Wisconsin, Bemus and Armstrong found Racine’s facility as most convenient because of drive

“It comes down to location, there are not that many curling clubs, they are like bowling alleys,” she said. “From where I live in Twin Lakes, I can triangulate three different curling clubs, one is in Northbrook, Ill, the other one is in Janesville and the third one is in Racine,” she said.

“Racine is by far the closest in both miles and in time,” she said. “Janesville is about 10 minutes longer to get to, and drive to, and that is essentially farther, even with less traffic.”

Racine Curling Club, 1914 Melvin Ave., Racine is accessible online at www.racinecurlingclub.com or by phone at 262-639-9990.

 
 

No comments

Be the first one to leave a comment.

Post a Comment