I recently had the opportunity to try out curling for the first time, the sport where teams of players attempt to slide and position 42 pound granite stones in a certain way over ice. Going into it I had some misgivings, but it ended up being a lot of fun and there is quite a bit of strategy and skill involved. Wikipedia has a good overview of how the game is played.

A view of the rinks inside the Granite Curling Club in Seattle, the only dedicated curling club on the entire west coast.

Reading up on it later, it turns out that the game originated in medieval Scotland (and here I thought that the Canadians came up with it). From wikipedia again:

Curling is thought to have been invented in late medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, in February 1541. Two paintings (both dated 1565) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depict Dutch peasants curling—Scotland and the Low Countries had strong trading and cultural links during this period, which is also evident in the history of golf.

Evidence that curling existed in Scotland in the early 16th century includes a curling stone inscribed with the date 1511 (uncovered along with another bearing the date 1551) when an old pond was drained at Dunblane, Scotland. Kilsyth Curling Club claims to be the first club in the world, having been formally constituted in 1716; it is still in existence today. Kilsyth also claims the oldest purpose-built curling pond in the world at Colzium, in the form of a low dam creating a shallow pool some 100 Ă— 250 metres in size, though this is now very seldom in condition for curling because of warmer winters.

“A curling match at Eglinton Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1860. The Curling House is located to the left of the picture.”

Illustrations from History of Curling, written in 1890.

Men playing on a rink in St. Moritz, Switzerland. 1947. From LIFE.

Players in Detroit, 1949. It’s too bad that the Olympic players of today do not dress up like this for their own matches.

While it’s fun to hate on the sport, you should definitely try it out if you ever get the opportunity (how often do you get to play medieval sports anyways?). If you’re in the Seattle area, the Granite Curling Club has ongoing open leagues and classes that are available.

More info:
Granite Curling Club
1440 North 128th Street
Seattle, WA 98133-7621
(206) 362-2446