“After we go snowboarding, we can take a curling lesson!” Excitement spread across Barry’s face like the snow spreading across Bavaria as we barreled along the swirling whiteness in his jeep catching up on life since we last saw each other three years ago. Barry, one of my all-time favorite people from my college years, has lived in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany for ten years now, just over the border from Innsbruck, Austria where I was spending the holidays for two weeks. Being someone who knows next to nothing about sports, nor caring to change that status, I can’t say I was overly excited about a curling lesson, mildly enthusiastic at best. Barry and his wife, Natalie, had recently befriended a German named Daniel who was basically a pro curler and had very kindly offered to give a group of twelve of us a little how-to with the broom and rock. Despite my reservations for trying out the majority of sports, I was happy enough to go along because Barry’s enthusiasm for activities is contagious.
Wanting to take advantage of the newly fallen snow, we got up early to go snowboarding in the Alps. This is an activity in which I have not partaken in at least 7 or 8 years. We rode for several hours in temperatures that froze my teeth every time I opened my mouth. After my first run down I knew I was going to be sore and that miniscule tasks that seem to require little effort would become monumental feats of strength in the days to follow; walking up or down stairs (calves), lowering myself onto the toilet (thighs), lifting my head from my pillow (neck and shoulders), etc.
We only went riding for three hours but for someone who is totally out of snowboarding shape, those three hours killed me. I was beyond exhausted and when we arrived home I thought to back out of the curling lesson. I knew dedicating an hour to some yoga would help to quell the onslaught of pain I could tell was just over the horizon of tomorrow. The allotted 20 minutes I had to change and shower hardly served as a period of relaxation and as tired as I was, I was curious about this whole curling thing so kept to it and didn’t back out.
Daniel was waiting for us at the ice rink. I didn’t even realize we would have our own special room with a slightly different iced floor than that of the rink that hockey or figure skating is done upon. As the tall, sporty German explained how curling worked it slowly started to become interesting to me. I had no idea the brain skill that’s required as he explained that it’s often like playing chess where you need to be a step ahead mentally of your opponent.
We were given a sort of glorified bootie with a slippery bottom to fit over one shoe enabling you to glide over the ice as if you were wearing skates. The other shoe you used as the foot to propel you forward. Daniel made this look effortless as a pro in a given field of expertise would. After a few warm up laps around the ice testing out our glorified booties and looking ever so clumsy in doing so Daniel showed us the move in which one delivers the rock from one end of the ice to the other. He pushed off from a block that was connected to the ice in a lunge position, one leg bending forward, the other stretched out behind him and balancing his weight equally with the broom resting on the ice in one hand and the rock in the other. As he demonstrated this delivery with perfect agility we all stared at his finely sculpted derriere moving slowly away from us, all I could think was he must be really good at yoga and squats. Everyone was silent as we observed the flawless way in which he lunged and sent the rock sliding down towards the other end. It was like watching a dancer glide across a stage captivating the audience with ultimate and raw finesse. Of which, the rest of us were about to find out we were seriously lacking.
After a few demos we were encouraged to practice on our own. How hard could it be? Very. You may be an expert at lunges but pair that with sliding on the ice wearing one glorified bootie and it’s a whole different ballpark, or in this case, ice rink. I had already set my muscles up for obliterating pain the following days by snowboarding but this was only going to exacerbate the soreness. I never would have guessed it had I not been on the ice practicing my sweet delivery moves. It’s not easy. Tripping, slipping and falling I daresay it was a nice lesson on being a bit humble when it comes to looking like an idiot when trying something new. I mean how many of us out there take to the ice with heavy granite rocks and brooms to try this? Furthermore, when they invented this sport in Scotland in the 16th century, who was the person to say, “Hey here’s an incredibly heavy rock! Why don’t I send this off to the other end of this frozen pond and have someone else sweep a broom in front of it while it’s sliding?” Then another Scot chimed in and said, “Yes, but when we deliver the rock we must be lunging!”
If I took anything away from that lesson it was a newfound appreciation for how difficult curling actually is. Ice Capades be damned, I’ll be viewing curling the next time I hunker down in front of a television to watch a winter sport.