Curling is a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice toward a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles. It is related to bowls, boules, and shuffleboard. Two teams, each with four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called rocks, across the ice curling sheet toward the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones, with each player throwing two. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game; points are scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones once. A game usually consists of eight or ten ends.
Evidence that curling existed in Scotland in the early 16th century includes a curling stone inscribed with the date 1511 found (along with another bearing the date 1551) when an old pond was drained at Dunblane, Scotland. The world's oldest curling stone and the world's oldest football are now kept in the same museum (the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum) in Stirling. The first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, in February 1541. Two paintings, "Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap" and "The Hunters in the Snow" (both dated 1565) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, depict Flemish peasants curling, albeit without brooms; Scotland and the Low Countries had strong trading and cultural links during this period, which is also evident in the history of golf.
The word curling first appears in print in 1620 in Perth, Scotland, in the preface and the verses of a poem by Henry Adamson. The sport was (and still is, in Scotland and Scottish-settled regions like southern New Zealand) also known as "the roaring game" because of the sound the stones make while traveling over the pebble (droplets of water applied to the playing surface). The verbal noun curling is formed from the Scots (and English) verb curl, which describes the motion of the stone.
In the early history of curling, the playing stones were simply flat-bottomed stones from rivers or fields, which lacked a handle and were of inconsistent size, shape, and smoothness. Some early stones had holes for a finger and the thumb, akin to ten-pin bowling balls. Unlike today, the thrower had little control over the 'curl' or velocity and relied more on luck than on precision, skill, and strategy. The sport was often played on frozen rivers although purpose-built ponds were later created in many Scottish towns. For example, the Scottish poet David Gray describes whisky-drinking curlers on the Luggie Water at Kirkintilloch.
In Darvel, East Ayrshire, the weavers relaxed by playing curling matches using the heavy stone weights from the looms' warp beams, fitted with a detachable handle for the purpose. Central Canadian curlers often used 'irons' rather than stones until the early 1900s; Canada is the only country known to have done so, while others experimented with wood or ice-filled tins.
In February 2002, the International Olympic Committee retroactively decided that the curling competition from the 1924 Winter Olympics (originally called Semaine des Sports d'Hiver, or International Winter Sports Week) would be considered official Olympic events and no longer be considered demonstration events. Thus, the first Olympic medals in curling, which at the time was played outdoors, were awarded for the 1924 Winter Games, with the gold medal won by Great Britain, two silver medals by Sweden, and the bronze by France. A demonstration tournament was also held during the 1932 Winter Olympic Games between four teams from Canada and four teams from the United States, with Canada winning 12 games to 4.
A key part of the preparation of the playing surface is the spraying of water droplets onto the ice, which form pebble on freezing. The pebbled ice surface resembles an orange peel, and the stone moves on top of the pebbled ice. The pebble, along with the concave bottom of the stone, decreases the friction between the stone and the ice, allowing the stone to travel farther. As the stone moves over the pebble, any rotation of the stone causes it to curl, or travel along a curved path. The amount of curl (commonly referred to as the feet of curl) can change during a game as the pebble wears; the ice maker must monitor this and be prepared to scrape and re-pebble the surface prior to each game.
Ailsa Craig is the traditional source and produces two types of granite, Blue Hone and Ailsa Craig Common Green. Blue Hone has very low water absorption, which prevents the action of repeatedly freezing water from eroding the stone. Ailsa Craig Common Green is a lesser quality granite than Blue Hone. In the past, most curling stones were made from Blue Hone, but the island is now a wildlife reserve, and the quarry is restricted by environmental conditions that exclude blasting.
Kays of Scotland has been making curling stones in Mauchline, Ayrshire, since 1851 and has the exclusive rights to the Ailsa Craig granite, granted by the Marquess of Ailsa, whose family has owned the island since 1560. According to the 1881 Census, Andrew Kay employed 30 people in his curling stone factory in Mauchline. The last harvest of Ailsa Craig granite by Kays took place in 2013, after a hiatus of 11 years; 2,000 tons were harvested, sufficient to fill anticipated orders through at least 2020. Kays have been involved in providing curling stones for the Winter Olympics since Chamonix in 1924 and has been the exclusive manufacturer of curling stones for the Olympics since the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Trefor granite comes from the Yr Eifl or Trefor Granite Quarry in the village of Trefor on the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynedd, Wales and has produced granite since 1850. Trefor granite comes in shades of pink, blue, and grey. The quarry supplies curling stone granite exclusively to the Canada Curling Stone Company, which has been producing stones since 1992 and supplied the stones for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The purpose of a game is to score points by getting stones closer to the house centre, or the "button", than the other team's stones. Players from either team alternate in taking shots from the far side of the sheet. An end is complete when all eight rocks from each team have been delivered, a total of sixteen stones. If the teams are tied at the end of regulation, often extra ends are played to break the tie. The winner is the team with the highest score after all ends have been completed (see Scoring below). A game may be conceded if winning the game is infeasible.
International competitive games are generally ten ends, so most of the national championships that send a representative to the World Championships or Olympics also play ten ends. However, there is a movement on the World Curling Tour to make the games only eight ends. Most tournaments on that tour are eight ends, as are the vast majority of recreational games.
In international competition, each side is given 73 minutes to complete all of its throws. Each team is also allowed two minute-long timeouts per 10-end game. If extra ends are required, each team is allowed 10 minutes of playing time to complete its throws and one added 60-second timeout for each extra end. However, the "thinking time" system, in which the delivering team's game timer stops as soon as the shooter's rock crosses the t-line during the delivery, is becoming more popular, especially in Canada. This system allows each team 38 minutes per 10 ends, or 30 minutes per 8 ends, to make strategic and tactical decisions, with 4 minutes and 30 seconds an end for extra ends. The "thinking time" system was implemented after it was recognized that using shots which take more time for the stones to come to rest was being penalized in terms of the time the teams had available compared to teams which primarily use hits which require far less time per shot.
The skip, or the captain of the team, determines the desired stone placement and the required weight, turn, and line that will allow the stone to stop there. The placement will be influenced by the tactics at this point in the game, which may involve taking out, blocking, or tapping another stone.
The skip may communicate the weight, turn, line, and other tactics by calling or tapping a broom on the ice. In the case of a takeout, guard, or a tap, the skip will indicate the stones involved.
After the stone is delivered, its trajectory is influenced by the two sweepers under instruction from the skip. Sweeping is done for several reasons: to make the stone travel farther, to decrease the amount of curl, and to clean debris from the stone's path. Sweeping is able to make the stone travel farther and straighter by slightly melting the ice under the brooms, thus decreasing the friction as the stone travels across that part of the ice. The stones curl more as they slow down, so sweeping early in travel tends to increase distance as well as straighten the path, and sweeping after sideways motion is established can increase the sideways distance.
Much of the yelling that goes on during a curling game is the skip and sweepers exchanging information about the stone's line and weight and deciding whether to sweep. The skip evaluates the path of the stone and calls to the sweepers to sweep as necessary to maintain the intended track. The sweepers themselves are responsible for judging the weight of the stone, ensuring that the length of travel is correct and communicating the weight of the stone back to the skip. Many teams use a number system to communicate in which of 10 zones the sweepers estimate the stone will stop. Some sweepers use stopwatches to time the stone from the back line or tee line to the nearest hog line to aid in estimating how far the stone will travel. 2b1af7f3a8