I lean into the phone, say, "Tell me about Curl San Diego. How did the curling club get started?"
"Started last January, as a small group of people in a Yahoo discussion group." Elliot Hicks, 31, is married, dad to a three-month-old daughter, works at a technology startup in Escondido. "My parents immigrated from New Jersey to Saskatchewan a year before I was born," Hicks says. "I came back to the U.S. to attend MIT and stayed." Mrs. Hicks got Mr. Hicks to San Diego.
"How did you find Curl San Diego?"
"When I moved out here I contacted the USCA [United States Curling Association], asked if there was any curling in the area, and they gave me Jon Wilson's name." Wilson is a big deal in the USCA.
"We're going to start a league in January. The league will have eight to ten teams," Hicks says. "You need a fair amount of equipment for curling. In order to play on one sheet [a lane of ice 14' 2" by 15' 7"], you need 16 stones. Stones range from $250 to $500 and, typically, you have four sheets going at once. Also, everybody should have a broom."
"Curling brooms. They've become specialized. Their handles can be wood...a lot of them are fiberglass, some are carbon fiber. They have very flat, small, brush heads. They're designed to create friction and heat up the ice, which causes the stone to slide."
"What's the skill set for a broom personhood?"
"Sweeping will change the distance that the rock travels down the ice by as much as 12 feet and has a very large impact on how straight the rock goes, which is important for takeout shots. Probably the biggest thing is judgment, because sweepers are in charge of figuring out how far the rock will go."
"I note curling has two sweepers. Is there a boss sweeper?"
Hicks laughs. "Generally, the person who's closer to the rock will be in charge of calling the sweeping. Everyone except for the skip has a turn at sweeping."
"Skip, meaning the skipper, the captain?"
"Yes. There are four people on each team. The skip is the guy who shoots the last two rocks and calls all the shots. Players shoot from one end down to the target area at the other end called the 'house.' The skip will stand in the house and call what shot he wants, tell a player to throw a guard or draw into the house or takeout another stone."
I have no objection to the skip's duties at this time. "Your club is based in Escondido. Normally, I wouldn't put 'Escondido' and 'curling' in the same sentence. Where do your members come from?"
"A lot of Canadians, a lot of people from the East Coast and Upper Midwest. But, the majority are locals who have never curled before. A lot of people saw curling during the Olympics and thought, 'Looks like fun.'"
Fun. Reckless endangerment. Curling goes by many names. "I assume each player has a different role?"
"The four positions -- lead, second, vice-skip, and skip -- are in the order of who shoots. Everybody shoots two rocks. For lead, you want somebody who is good at judging weight because he'll probably be throwing guard rocks, so he needs to be good at throwing a rock that will go exactly the distance he wants it to. Second has to be a bit more versatile because he'll probably have to throw more draw rocks, drawing into the house, but he may also have to do some takeouts. For vice-skip, you need somebody who is capable of takeouts, has good draw weight, can do some of the more tricky shots like angle takeouts. And then for skip, you've got to be able to make all the shots, understand strategy, know how to call a game. Usually, the skip is a very experienced curler."
"In Fairbanks, people would go curling and drink all night. I assume it's the same in Canada."
Hicks laughs hard. "It is. My mother had never heard of curling before she moved to Saskatchewan. One day neighbors dragged her to the town curling rink. It was during a 24-hour bonspiel, essentially a round-the-clock tournament where you drink until your game comes up, then you go down and play, then return to the bar. It was time for the first shot. My mom says the team comes tumbling down from the bar -- pretty much every curling rink has a bar -- they come tumbling down from the bar and get on the ice. The first guy goes to throw his rock, forgets to let go, and he's so drunk he ends up sliding down the ice holding onto the rock and laughing all the way. My mother asked her new friend, 'You like this game?'"
Interested readers can contact Hicks at: [email protected], or stop by curlsandiego.org/ for particulars.