When “broomstacking,” the winning curling team buys the losing curlers the first round of drinks.
  • When “broomstacking,” the winning curling team buys the losing curlers the first round of drinks.
  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

‘We are the only curling club in San Diego. There are five in the state — three in SoCal and two in Northern California.”

On the phone with Brian Walsh, 40, president of Curl San Diego. Cards on table, I say, “My sole experience with curling was wandering into a 1930s one-story warehouse in Fairbanks that turned out to be a curling rink, and having too many beers with curlers. Seemed like that was part of the game.”

“That’s quite true,” Walsh says. “There’s a tradition in curling called ‘broomstacking.’ The winning team buys the losing team the first round of drinks. So, curlers drinking is a very common sight.”

“How did you get into it?”

“I decided to give it a whirl during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Went out for a ‘Learn to Curl’ clinic. It was sold out, so I joined the beginners’ league. We ended up winning the league and from that point on I was hooked.”

“I read, somewhere, that one of your teams made it to regionals and went on to nationals.”

Walsh says, “I was part of a team that went to a mixed regional playdown [tournament] and ended up going on to nationals.”

I say, “What separates players at that level from pretty good players back home?”

“The level of play is substantially higher. Players are way more accurate. At the amateur level, a good team can probably shoot in the ballpark of 60 percent. On the national level, players shoot 70 to 90 percent.”

“What does that mean?”

Walsh says, “Every shot can be considered on a scale of one to five. Ideally, if you hit the shot exactly as called and everything happens perfectly, you would be assessed a 100 percent score.”

I say, “So, the skip [team captain] makes the call, tells you where to place the stone, and if you place it where he says, that’s 100 percent?”


A random thought pops up, “What’s the deal with sweeping?”

“Sweeping is an art, almost a science. The idea is to put as much weight on the broom as you possibly can while keeping your balance and sweeping as fast as you can, which slightly melts the ice, creating a nice path for the stone to move further down the ice. There’s a lot that goes into it; not as easy as it looks.”

“Are sweepers sweepers all the time?”

Walsh says, “Everybody rotates around. The skip usually shoots last because he’s calling the game. There’s four people on the ice: lead, who usually throws first. Second, usually throws second. Vice skip and skip. After you’re done throwing your stones, then you sweep. The skip is the exception; he doesn’t sweep, he calls the game and throws the final two stones. He’s typically the best all-around player.

“Most people think curling is easy. Beginners get out there for the first time and they’re falling all over the place. Their form isn’t anything what it looks like on TV. We help them with that. There’s absolutely a learning curve that comes with curling, but it’s a short learning curve, usually only a couple weeks or so before you start getting a feel for it.”

“Is there one part of the game that grabs newcomers?”

“If there’s one thing, it’s probably the strategy; that’s what makes the game so interesting. After every shot, your game plan can completely change.“

Random thought #2: “Tell me about bonspiels [curling tournaments].”

“The bonspiels in California are incredibly popular. We send multiple teams to bonspiels all the time. Summer is California bonspieling season. The first one is over Memorial Day; it’s the Golden Gate Bonspiel in San Francisco.”

I say, “Let’s see how far off I am — this is all guessing, by the way. A curling team wants to go to Golden Gate Bonspiel. They announce, ‘We’re coming.’ I’d suspect there would be a dinner and some beers and a game and some more beers and another game and some more beers, which turns into a wickedly fun weekend, right?”

“That’s exactly what it is,” Walsh says. “Incredibly fun weekends. If you have an interest in going, all you have to do is mention it and you’ll probably pull a team together. It’s just getting enough people to do it. When people go to bonspiels, it may not be with the same team that’s in your league — it could be random people from the club who want to go play and have a great time. I go to at least a couple a year, not only inside California, but we travel all over the place.”

Curl San Diego is hosting a Learn to Curl clinic on April 1. Hie thee to curlsandiego.org for particulars

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader


Sign in to comment

Get $5 off any Reader event

Sign up for our email list to get your promo code