In curling two teams of four players take turns to slide heavy granite stones (or ‘rocks’) across a textured ice sheet towards a circular target known as the ‘house’. Points are scored depending on how close to the centre of the house the stones come to rest. Each team has eight stones with handles, each weighing around 20 kilograms, and once they have all been thrown the ‘end’ is complete.
While similar to bowls, curling depends on teamwork and tactics. After a player has delivered a stone, other members of the team, armed with brooms, will sweep the ice in front of it to reduce friction and alter its speed and trajectory (or ‘curl’).
Curling is traditionally known as ‘the roaring game’ because of the sound the stones make when travelling over the ice sheet.
New Zealand is one of the last places in the world to maintain the old-style outdoor form of curling. The thrower stands upright on a metal platform called a crampit and throws the stone using a pendulum motion. Crampit games consist of 21 ends, and are played on frozen lakes and dams when the ice is thick enough. Since 1932 a regular bonspiel (a tournament for curling clubs) has been held at Idaburn Dam, Ōtūrehua, Central Otago. Fair play, fellowship and tradition are important aspects of crampit curling.
From 1992, when New Zealand joined the World Curling Federation, Olympic ‘hack’ style curling was introduced. Olympic games, which consist of eight or 10 ends, are played indoors on a curling sheet up to 46 metres long and 5 metres wide, with a circular house marked at each end. Lines are drawn to indicate the throwing and scoring zones. Rubber-lined holes, called hacks, at each end of the sheet give the thrower something to push against. The ice playing area is sprinkled with water which freezes to create a ‘pebbled’ surface.
The Baxter Cup
Rival curling teams first played for the Baxter Cup in 1884. It is now awarded to the winner of the Naseby Curling Council’s one-day bonspiel.
Curling originated in Scotland in the 16th century. In the 19th century it became established in British colonies, the United States and European countries, and it later spread to Asia. Scottish immigrants introduced the sport to the south of New Zealand in the 1860s.
In 1873 curling clubs were formed at Haldon Station in the Mackenzie Basin (South Canterbury) and at Dunedin, and the sport soon spread throughout Otago. In 1886 the New Zealand Curling Association was formed and by 1900 there were nine clubs. Though it was a male-dominated sport, there were women’s teams by the 1890s. Auckland became the first North Island club, playing indoors, in 1996. In 2013 most clubs were in Otago and Southland, with rinks at Dunedin, Naseby and Gore.
The first international competition took place against Australia in 1934. New Zealand sent a team to the Pacific championships in 1991, winning for the first time in 1998.
Although it was demonstration sport at the Winter Olympics in 1924, curling was not an official Olympic sport until 1998. The New Zealand men’s team first qualified for the Winter Olympics in 2006.