The state of Oklahoma and the Winter Olympics have something in common: both harbor athletes who are passionate about the sport of curling. And those Okie enthusiasts are hoping others will want to slide into the fun.
Curling is a sport in which two teams of four players each slide granite rocks, also called stones, down a sheet of ice toward a target. Each team tries to get more of its stones closer to the center of the target.
Fans of the sport say it’s a game that appeals to a variety of ages and ability levels. Curling also creates camaraderie among players, be it through league play, tournaments or just enjoying a drink after a match. Tulsa and Oklahoma City both offer clubs where players come together to compete or learn how to play.
“We just have a great time,” says Eric Vardeman, founder and president of the Tulsa Curling Club. “It’s a very social sport and a very social group. You can be as competitive as you want, or you can be as recreational as you want.”
Fair warning, though – curling can be addictive.
“I did one class and I got hooked,” says Mark Ngo, president of the Oklahoma Curling Club in OKC.
The Oklahoma City club meets at the Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Edmond, while the Tulsa club currently plays at the Oilers Ice Center. Ngo and Vardeman say that the Winter Olympics often spur interest in the sport locally, and both are encouraged by the passion they’ve seen so far. They hope their respective clubs can help grow a love for the sport, too.
Ngo says his dream “is to get enough memberships that we could start moving forward to get our own facility.” Vardeman mentions that the Tulsa group is excited about soon moving into the new WeStreet Ice Center, which is expected to open next year and will offer the club more space.
Those who are curious about curling can check out either club’s instructional classes to get started. For more information, visit okcurling.com and tulsacurlingclub.com.
Want to give curling a go? Vardeman and Ngo offer tips for that first class.
• Dress in layers. It may be cold on the ice initially, but you’ll warm up fast and may want to shed some clothes.
• Wear comfortable, rubber-soled athletic shoes. Curlers don’t play on ice skates. Instead, there are sliders that fit on shoes for play. Both clubs provide the equipment needed to participate in an instructional class.
• Give yourself some grace. It’s OK if you struggle a bit in your first classes. “It’s not a hard sport to learn, it’s just going to take some time to learn it,” says Vardeman.
• Make having fun the primary goal. Don’t take it too seriously.“We just ask people to have a good time,” says Ngo.
Image cutline: Typically played from fall to spring, curling involves two teams of four players, who slide granite rocks down a sheet of ice toward a target. Photo courtesy Tulsa Curling Club