Olympics
7:06 am
Thu February 13, 2014

From South Beach To Sochi, Curling Is The New Golf

Nancy Watson, co-founder of the Panthers Curling Club based in Coral Springs, throws a curling 'rock.'
Credit Christine DiMattei

Every Wednesday night, 35-year-old Amy Tejirian takes the long drive from her home in South Beach to the Saveology Iceplex in Coral Springs.

Once there, she dons some strange gear for someone who lives year-round  in Miami. But the heavy jacket, wool hat and gloves are a must at the rink. Outside, it's a seasonable 70 degrees. Inside, it's so cold, you can see your own breath.

Tejirian, along with about 25 other people of all ages, grabs what looks like a push-broom. Before long, she's frenetically brushing the surface of the ice in front of a 42-lbs. granite weight gliding toward her feet.  

"It's my turn to sweep the rock," Tejirian says, excitedly.

All the sweeping is meant to change the weight's (rock's) speed and direction so that it comes to a stop in or near the bulls-eye of what looks like a huge dart board on the ice. 

This is curling. Having grown up in Calgary, Tejirian was already familiar with the sport. But she says she really got into it after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"They showed it on TV a lot. All the time. They called NBC 'Nothing But Curling,'" she says.

And that's a common story. Perhaps it was all the network exposure. Or the colorful trousers worn by the men of Team Norway. Maybe television viewers were bemused by all those strange noises the players make. 

Whatever the reason, the national fascination with curling did reach a fever pitch after Vancouver, according to USA Curling, the sport’s national governing body. Curling leagues have sprung up in 38 states, including Hawaii.

But South Florida's curling club might have an edge. 

Mark Watson of Pompano Beach says the Iceplex's manager approached him and other recreational hockey players originally from Canada and asked if they knew how to curl. "So they talked us into instructing during the [Vancouver] Olympics," says Watson.

The Panthers Curling Club takes its name from – and shares a training facility with – Florida’s hockey team. The club prides itself on being the only bonafide curling league in the entire state – and it's even got a bit of star power in its ranks.

Curling club member Bill Todhunter has lived in Fort Lauderdale for the last two years and coaches the Women’s U.S. Curling Team now competing in Sochi. He's not surprised that the sport has gained a following in South Florida, but he says the chances of a champion curler springing from the Sunshine State are slim.

"To be an elite player, you have to travel to the Midwest of the United States or into Canada to get the competition," says Todhunter. "Look at Jessica Schultz [one of the four members of the Olympic team]. She was a very successful junior curler in Alaska. But she knew that if she was ever going to make it in the sport of curling she would have to move. So she moved to Minnesota.”

But the quest for Olympic Gold is not what keeps the members of the Panthers Curling Club coming back.

Tejirian loves the camaraderie within the league. "Everyone is super nice," she says.

Watson, too, loves the social aspect of the sport. And he says that while curling might look deceptively simple, like a big game of shuffleboard on ice, there's a lot of strategy involved.

"Like golf, every game you always make one shot that brings you back next week," says Watson.

The Saveology Iceplex in Coral Springs is offering special "Learn To Curl" sessions for beginners during the Sochi Games.
Dates:  February 19, and 26 @ 9:00 PM
Cost:  $25 per session.

Panthers Curling Club Information:
PanthersCurlingClub@Hotmail.com
Facebook.com/PanthersCurling