Our First Attempt at Curling in New Zealand

Yes, you read that title right! Today we are doing something we never thought we would be doing in New Zealand. Not only that, but we never would have thought such a sport like this existed in the isolated highlands of Central Otago, a.k.a the middle of nowhere! It’s time to get our slide on at the Maniototo Curling Rink!

Curling is that sport in the Winter Olympics that you never really paid attention to because you didn’t really know why these people were sliding giant pebbles across an ice rink. But, man, after today, we are going to realise how wrong our preconceptions are.

Curling in Naseby

So life on Day 185 begins in the Ranfurly Holiday Park with a stunning sunrise and a town with a surprisingly flat landscape (considering how many mountains we passed to get here). We hit the road to the not-too-distant town of Nasbey, home to Naseby Forest, historic Victorian buildings, and New Zealand’s only dedicated indoor curling rink. No, scratch that. Naseby is home to the Southern Hemisphere’s only dedicated indoor curling rink! Amazing!

We follow the many road signs along the way making sure we really know where the rink is, until we see a huge building – clearly the indoor curling rink. But the building is surrounded by outdoor facilities too, such as a luge track and a couple of manmade lakes that freeze over in winter for ice skating and outdoor curling. As we are on the brink of summer, we are clearly not going to be using the outdoor facilities today, but you can really tell that this facility hidden away in Naseby really is a hub for Winter Olympic sports!

First step of learning to do curling First step of learning to do curling
Laura makes her move Laura makes her move
The grip of a champion The grip of a champion
Near misses on the scoring ring! Near misses on the scoring ring!

The bar with a curling view

Whatever the weather, the indoor curling rink is here all year round, seven days a week. We meet Ewan upstairs in the bar area of the facility with tilting windows giving the perfect view of the curling rink below. Four curling lanes are set up below. Each lane has two sets of eight stones and two scoring rings at either end of the lane – so you can play a game from either side of the lane.

’90s-tastic video

Now, as you might have realised, we have never played a game of curling nor really understand it. We get a coffee, and Ewan takes us to some rows of chairs in front of a TV to watch a informative, albeit shamelessly ’90s, introduction video to curling presented by a Curling Olympian. The five-minute video goes through everything we need to know about curling: the equipment, the scoring, and the different styles of curling (one of the great things about curling is that there are styles to suit all abilities).

Grippers for winners!

Once the video has finished and we have a better idea of curling, Ewan take us down to the rink to get started. To start off, we need grippers – rubber outsoles that you can put over your normal shoes so you don’t slip on the ice. (Thank God we don’t have to wear stinky shoes like in bowling!)

The ice is a lot different to that found on an ice-skating rink, which Ewan tells us is what makes the “dedicated” curling facility a much different experience to doing curling on an ice-skating rink. Instead of smooth and slippery ice, the curling rinks are sprayed with fine water droplets to create a textured effect. This, combined with our grippers, makes walking on the ice a breeze.

They call him “the sliding sensation”

Curling practice

We go through the three different curling styles with Ewan: the standing style, using a stick, and the slide. And, ya know, we aren’t the type of people to half-arse things! We want to do the style that we HAVE seen people do in the Olympics. We want to do “the slide”!

Despite having visions of being pulled down the lane with stone, thanks to Ewan’s instruction, we actually feel like we get the hang of sliding… It’s just the aiming and actually scoring that takes some practice. Well, Ewan leaves us to playing the game against each other so we have plenty of time to practice!

No sweeping brushes?!

“But, wait! What about the sweeping brushes?!” We hear you cry to your screen right now. Well, you need at least two people on your team to use the brushes and we would rather play against each other than with each other… (Yes, we have a healthy relationship)… So the game is ON!

Probably one of those times Robin knocks Laura out of the ring... Probably one of those times Robin knocks Laura out of the ring...
Our precious stones Our precious stones
We had a lot of these moments We had a lot of these moments

beginner’s luck

By some sort of curling miracle, Robin’s first go is a killer! He slides like an elegant penguin with a stone in hand and the stone gently makes its way into the scoring ring. About five attempts later, Laura doesn’t get anywhere near the scoring ring and Robin is putting too much power behind the rest of his stones, sending them over the scoring ring and into the abyss. (Or just the back of the lane, some might say). Because the round ends with Robin’s stone in the scoring ring, he is the winner of the round.

Laura can’t have any of this! We have started on a level playing field, she has to give him some competition! Too many sports she has proven herself sh*t at, but not today! Not with curling! She will make curling her sport!

Making a comeback… then, not so much

Maybe it’s the powers of the universe hearing her thoughts or maybe it’s just luck, but she slides the stone straight into the red ring – right in the middle of the scoring ring! Yes! She did it! She’s the curling queen! This is her time to shine! No one can stop her now… Aaaannnd, Robin’s stone knocks her stone out of the ring.

This sort of behaviour of setting herself up for victory only for her dreams to be shattered by Robin occurs over and over again, until Laura only ends up winning one game out of five. Robin is the curling overlord!

A new appreciation for curling

Now we have seen how easy it is to understand curling, realise the skill it requires, and the fact that anyone can play, we are really seeing curling in a new light! We are surprised by how much competition it sparked out of us. There’s a pretty exhilarating feeling of watching your stone once you have sent it on its way and hoping it does what you think you have told it today. With so many close calls, we can’t help but “ooo” and cheer at these stones.

Robin does his victory dance all the way to the van and all the way back to the Ranfurly Holiday Park where we will spend another night. Tomorrow, we are driving to Alexandra and hoping we’ll find more hidden gems like the Maniototo Curling Rink along the way! See you then!

Laura and Robin

A bit of a scoring ARGUMENT
A bit of a scoring ARGUMENT Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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