Don’t knock it ‘til you try it! Ladika takes the ice for a curling lesson

Submitted Photo Minot Daily News sportswriter Ryan Ladika pushes a stone down the ice at the Minot Curling Club on Wednesday.

There are many sports and activities you can watch on TV. The traditional sports, such as football or baseball, are usually on one of the major channels like FOX or NBC.

Then you have the ones you’d stumble across while watching ESPN 8: The Ocho, like cornhole, dodgeball, or that weird sport in the United Kingdom where people chase a roll of cheese down a steep hill. (It’s real, you can look it up).

Many of those activities you can take one look at and, from your reclining sofa and your bag of Cool Ranch Doritos in hand, think to yourself, “Yeah, I could totally do that,” before downing another can of Diet Coke.

For me, that was how I always viewed curling. How hard could it be, right?

I was given the opportunity to try my hand at the captivating winter sport earlier this week while producing my story covering the Minot Curling Club for Thursday’s newspaper. After my first attempt in delivering the stone, I uttered the first six words everyone says after doing something for the first time.

“This is harder than it looks!”

Unless you are a regular at ice skating or hockey, or anything else that has you on ice with any kind of frequency (I’m not), how slick the ice is can take you by surprise. Subconsciously, I was expecting the ice’s texture to feel like the type of ice you’d walk across on your way out to your car, with some snow on top and a bit of gravel mixed in, maybe half-frozen and half-slush.

Because it is a sport, they obviously take great care of the ice. To make it even more slick, they spray little droplets of water onto the surface and call it “pebbled ice” when it freezes, club member Mark Hildahl told me.

It was far more slippery than I was expecting. What you may not know about curling, though, is that the person who delivers the stones also uses a type of slick outer cover to put under their leading foot that is designed to even further decrease friction.

So there I was, a novice curler with a slipper under my left foot trying to stay upright as I pushed off with my right. All while making sure to send the rock straight down the ice.

I started out with two stones, one in each hand for better stability. After a couple of tries I graduated to a stone in my right hand and the brush in my left extended out for balance. I fell right on my tailbone on my first try.

But as with anything in life, the more you do it, the better you get. Once about ten minutes had elapsed, I was fairly decent at sending the rock straight and getting it about halfway down the ice. Obviously the stones were nowhere close to where they would ideally be if I were competing in a tournament, but it was really fun to do something I’ve never tried before.

In learning how to curl, I gained a lot of respect for those who can do it well. Not that I ever thought the sport was easy, but it can be hard to fathom how difficult something really is until you try it.

I suppose you could say I’m on the fast-track to Beijing 2022!


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