It’s hard to decide what is more common in curling: bruised bodies or bruised egos.
Amid the thundering of stones rolling down the ice and teammates shouting instructions at one another stands Jonathan Havercroft, president of the Oklahoma Curling Club.
Havercroft was raised in Montreal, Canada, where high school curling teams were as common as snow.
But when he moved to Oklahoma to be a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma, very few people had even heard of curling ” let alone played it.
“It took about a year to lay the groundwork and to meet some people that were interested,” Havercroft said. “We aimed to start with the Olympics, and once the Olympics happened things just went crazy.”
During the first round of league play last spring, more than 70 people signed up to throw 40-pound stones down a chute of ice on Thursday and Sunday nights.
Craig Brown, of Steve’s Curling Supplies in Madison, Wis., said the rapid number of orders he received from the Oklahoma City area made him question whether he was getting pranked.
“We had never gotten an order from Oklahoma,” Brown said. “One day, we got an order from Oklahoma for one brush and one slider, and then the next day, we got another order, and the day after that we got six orders. It was just kinda crazy.”
While only recently becoming popular in the U.S. since its re-induction as an Olympic sport in 1998, curling’s origin has been dated back to medieval times.
Curling consists of two teams of four: One curler slides a stone down the ice, while the skip shouts directions to two sweepers who try and direct the stone’s path, either to knock an opponent’s stone out of the circle or to position their stone within it.
Most of the participants meeting at Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Edmond had seen curling on the Olympics and wanted to give it a try.
First-time curler Trae Schwabe was so eager to play that he considered traveling to Kansas City, Mo., or Dallas to join a league. When Schwabe found a league was forming in his own backyard, he jumped at the chance.
He said while watching it on TV looks like a fun game of shuffleboard on ice, actually throwing both the stones and yourself down the lane is a much different story.
“The first time, I was a little bit apprehensive about falling down, but real excited,” he said. “I remember Jonathan saying that I had nice shoes. I got on the ice, fell right on my ass, and after that, I felt a little more comfortable and had a good time.”
The club is heading into its fall season and offering beginning curling classes on Sunday and Sept. 26.
Andrea Floyd attended the classes before the start of the spring. Despite watching a guy bloody the ice with his head when he slipped, she still had a good time.
“There was all this blood, and I was terrified, but I wanted to keep trying to get better,” she said. “There are all kinds of different people here, and it’s kinda like a big family.”
The fall league is expected to be even bigger than the spring, with enrollment already reaching into the 90s. Michael Lewchuk, another native Canadian, said it’s unbelievable to him how popular the sport is becoming.
“The thought that we have more than a dozen people is shocking to me,” he said. “But the guys that are here are extremely dedicated. You go out to the parking lot after, and they are talking curling all night. It’s pretty amazing. I was just in Canada, and they could not believe we were curling in the summer, let alone curling.”
Schwabe said joining this league was a breath of fresh air for him after getting tired of ultracompetitive sports and trash talk.
“It’s refreshing, especially being in football country here,” he said. “There is a lot of etiquette and a lot of good sportsmanship, and we do get competitive. But at the same time, we really just focus on having a good time and cultivating a good, positive atmosphere around here.”
While Havercroft said anyone can curl, the fun atmosphere of the group in Oklahoma is catching the eye of people outside the Sooner State.
“We are the fastest start in the U.S., and the United States Curling Association has been wondering what’s been going on,” he said. “We have people of all different shapes and sizes, ages, gender. It’s a very relaxed and friendly community.”
Brown said his shop usually gets a few strange places during the Olympics ordering gear to start curling, but he said he thinks Oklahoma may be different.
“A lot of the places starting right now aren’t having as much luck compared to Oklahoma City,” he said. “It’s easy to get people interested during the Olympics, but to sustain it and even continue to grow it even six months later, they must be doing something right.” “Adam Kemp | Photo/Adam Kemp