It's a simple game
Wheelchair curling is a simple game. You slide granite donuts down a
sheet of ice towards a circular target, and hope they end up closer to
the centre than those thrown by your opponent.
Mind you, these donuts weigh over 40 pounds and the target is 40 yards
away, but hey, the target is 12 feet wide. That looks a pretty big area
when you're sitting in it; when you're down the other end about to
throw, well, maybe not so much.
curlers play with the same rocks and on the same ice as regular curlers,
though the rocks are thrown from a stationary wheelchair, and there is
The great thing about wheelchair curling is that just about anyone with
access to a wheelchair can play. Iíve shared the ice with paras, quads,
amputees, post-polios, people with MS, spina bifida, guys recovering
from strokes and a couple with conditions with names so long and
convoluted they defy description.
Age is no barrier either, and teams at national and international events
played under World Curling Federation rules, are mixed gender.
Thereís very little if any equipment to buy, which will be a relief to
those brought up on hockey. If you can get into your local club, and
onto the ice, this is the sport for you. The ice at most clubs can be
made accessible with the addition of a small ramp. Ice makers will often
already have one for their own equipment.
All you need to bring to the game is the co-ordination to exert a
measured pushing force, and a tolerance for cold. If you live in New
Zealand you probably still curl on a frozen lake, but in Canada we play
indoors. It is cold out on the ice though, and with no sweeping,
wheelchair curling is not an aerobic activity.
How to get started
you've curled before, or seen wheelchair curling, you'll have some idea
what you need to do to be able to move a rock the required distance. If
you're completely new to the game search YouTube for wheelchair curling
wheelchair curling starts with a curling club being open to the idea of
wheelchair users participating in their activities. Calling or visiting
a local club would be a good place to begin. You could also try
contacting your local or regional curling association for information.
Canadian Curling Association has also produced a brochure on how to get
wheelchair curling started at club level. Contact
Danny Lamoureux for information.
don't sit back waiting for someone to start up a program that you can
to a club, watch and talk to the manager and curlers. Say you've heard
wheelchair curling is a great winter recreational activity and that
you'd like to give it a go. Some communities and sports organisations
hold "give-it-a-go" days where curlers and coaches are available to
assist and answer questions. If you know some wheelchair users that
would come out, then offer to help organise one in your area.
don't need a lot of expensive equipment. More and more clubs cater to
curlers who can no longer crouch down, by encouraging the use of push
CLICK HERE to read my review of 2 popular makes.
someone with you when you go out on the ice. Some people are able to
push rocks from their wheelchair without being braced. Others, me
included, need someone to hold their chair steady when they throw.
you first go out on the ice, try pushing rocks into the rings from 20
feet away - not 120. The single best thing you can do for yourself
starting out is to learn a smooth repeatable push of the stone. When you
have a feel for that, learn how to make the rock rotate, clockwise and
counter-clockwise, when it leaves your stick.
you can push a rock straight, with the correct rotation, then and only
then move further back. If you are ever going to get a sense of control
over where the rock is going, you need a repeatable delivery motion that
works for you. Add distance by pushing harder, when your have worked on
Having said that, not every curler wants to work hard or become an
expert, and just as not every bowling ball is destined to stay out of
the gutter, not every curling rock is destined to hit its target. The
nice thing about curling is that with up to 15 other rocks in play,
you've a good chance of hitting something, and a very satisfying sound
that something will make when you hit it.
Curling is played at every level of ability. Fun leagues have complete
beginners and people there for the social side of the game. That's a
great place to learn how to curl. As you improve there will be other
leagues that will test your skills. You don't need other wheelchair
users to play with, but if you start playing, others will follow.
is still a very new sport. The rules are in flux, the traditions unset.
Best practices have yet to become fossilized into conventional wisdom.
There's no reason why on a wheelchair team, the lead or second can't
skip. There's no particular reason why a team should be 4 players. 2
works just as well if you can deliver a rock without needing to be
braced. It could be that the future of wheelchair curling lies not in
attempting to copy regular curling, but in joining the growing sport of
stick curling, playing 2 on 2 without sweepers.
So here's your
starting out checklist:
out a club, take a tour, buy a drink at the bar, or ask for one to be
brought down to you, talk to some curlers, and let it be known that
you'd like to learn to curl.
Curling from a wheelchair is not an aerobic activity, so wrap up warm
when you go out on the ice.
or buy a delivery stick. If your hands are like mine and canít grip a
pole, find some other way of attaching your hand to the stick. The skip
of Team Ontario has his stick fixed to his hand with duct tape and he
went 5 - 0 in a National Championship round robin.
out different ways to throw, different lengths of stick, and different
positions of the rocks in relation to your wheelchair. Your delivery
will be individual to you as it will depend on what your body can do, so
experiment to discover what feels most comfortable. Coaches can refine a
delivery, but you must find a basic motion that works for you.
an able-bodied fun league, where having one less sweeper isn't going to
mean life or death. Or get together with some other wheelchair users and
form your own team. You will probably compete mostly against able-bodied
curlers, but if you're ambitious, you can always try out for provincial
and national wheelchair teams.
lastly but most importantly, have fun. Curling has its place in Canadian hearts because it is
an inclusive, sociable sport.
See you on the ice,
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