Category Archives: Rocks and Ice

A Rose by Any Other Name…

Let me just say the name of the sport out loud. Curling. What images does that word conjure up in your head? Perhaps you think of curly hair, or maybe…I don’t know some other non-straight thing. With respect to our sport however, it’s no coincidence in the name. Come to think of it “Curling” isn’t actually all that original. Maybe it should be called “Frozen Granite Rush” or “Super Slider Rock Smash” but it isn’t. The game is Curling. And what happens in this bizarrely named game? People slide rocks down a sheet of ice and on the way down they (can you guess?) curl. Stupid intro, I know but stay with me, I do get to a point here.

One of the first confusing things new curlers are taught is how to spin the stone when they release it. Specifically they are taught to rotate it clockwise or counterclockwise depending on what the skip is asking for. Often this turns out to be a little tricky seeing as most people see the signal for the rotation as opposite to what they expected. Most new curlers expect to have to throw it so it rotates towards the skips outstretched hand when in fact we skips are pointing to where we DON’T want you to throw it to. Now, I know many of the coaches out there have very effective techniques for explaining this and for that I applaud you. It does not change the fact that our convention for signalling a shot is intuitively backwards.

In any event, the rotation on that rock does in fact determine the direction of curl of the path of that stone. Now, the interesting thing is, why?!? Well, believe or not, no one actually knows! There are theories and some actual real scientists working on this but there are no definitive answers as of yet. Ultimately, the fact that the stones curl is what makes this game great. If they did not curl, this would be shuffleboard on ice and there would be practically no discussion of strategy. Instead, what we have due to some oddity of our physical world, is a fabulously rich and diverse game. For a great look at the phenomenon, take a look at this. Enjoy!