Local curlers say Olympic sport like ‘high-tech checkers’

WASHINGTON — Every four years, an odd-looking sport featured at the Winter Olympics gains new fans.

It’s called curling, and enthusiasts can play it here in the D.C. region.

“The object of the game is to slide a 38- to 44-pound hunk of granite with a handle on top down a sheet of ice, and get it into those bullseye-looking-thingies which are called the ‘house,'” according to Joe Rockenbach.

He’s on the Board of Directors of the all-volunteer Potomac Curling Club, based at the National Capital Curling Center, in Laurel, Md.

After one player “throws” the “rock” down the long, narrow sheet of ice, other players chase it and furiously sweep the ice in front of the moving rock with specially-made brooms.

“It essentially makes the rock go further and straighter. A good pair of sweepers can make a rock go an extra 10 to 15 feet,” says Rockenbach.

Read more about the basics of curling on the Potomac Curling Club website.

Close your eyes and curling sounds like bowling with lots of yelling. Open your eyes and you might say it looks like slippery shuffleboard.

In reality, it’s a brain game that involves a lot of strategy.

“Some people say it’s like chess on ice, which may be an over-exaggeration, but it’s certainly high-tech checkers,” says George Shirk, one of the club’s lead instructors.

“I like that it’s a sport that you can play with both genders on the same team, or against each other, women versus men. You can do whatever you want and you’re on a basically even playing field,” says player Paige Roberts.

Another reason players love curling is the welcoming atmosphere, and the expectation that the fun will continue off the ice.

“Whether you win or lose, you win because the winning team buys the losing team a free drink,” explained player Jeremy Vandenhouten.

If you’d like to try curling, the Potomac Curling Club is holding open houses from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16.

The cost is $10 per person or $20 per family, and you’re asked to register in advance to reserve your time on the ice.

The club currently has a little over 200 members, and tends to pick up a bunch of new members after every Winter Olympics.

Watch the video below to check them out in action:

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