Last weekend, curlers of all skill levels -- from Olympic medalist Pete Fenson to those just starting out -- came together for Orange County’s first three-day bonspiel (that’s a curling tournament) in Westminster.
Presented by the Orange County Curling Club, the bonspiel attracted curlers and their families from as far as Toronto. Westminster Mayor Tri Ta helped kick off the ceremonies, which included a bagpipe performance, the Canadian National Anthem, and a shot of whiskey.
Bill Waddington, President of the Orange County Curling Club, says while curling is big in Canada, its presence in the Winter Olympics is helping it gain popularity in the U.S. too.
Curling is believed to date all the way back to 1521, when Scottish farmers decided it would be a good idea to push tea kettles down stretches of frozen lake. Curlers eventually moved on to using polished rocks instead, and even today, the 42-pound regulation curling stones come from Scotland's Ailsa Craig.
These days, curlers have more comfortable shoes and they use plastic brushes instead of wooden brooms to sweep the ice in front of the sliding granite rocks. But the spirit of curling is unchanged.
“Curling is only half about trying to compete,” Waddington says. “Curling is just good people. It’s a very social event. When you come down to curl, you’re really coming down to spend time with friends.” And it's customary for the winning team to buy the losing team their first round of drinks, not the other way around.
Misha Houser is on the Fundraising Committee for the O.C. Curling Club. She says Curling is a little different than most Olympic Sports. “This is the only sport where you can go to a tournament and be playing against Olympic Medalists and be a raw beginner. You cannot go to any other Olympic category sport and sit down with the elite in the sport as a beginner and learn.”
If you can’t wait to get out on the ice, check out the O.C. Curling Club’s website for a schedule of Learn to Curl classes.