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Curling: More than just throwing rocks

A third generation Osbakken curler watches her delivery. Submitted1 / 4
Two Harbors curlers Sitter and Cable among the rocks. Submitted2 / 4
Shooster Olympic team at Two Harbors Curling Club. Submitted3 / 4
Friendly Two Harbors curlers shake hands before and after a match. Submitted4 / 4

Kay Libby is a second generation curler and a member of the Two Harbors Curling Club. Both of her parents curled and she started playing in high school--over 30 years ago. She likes the sport because it's a good way to get through the long winter months.

"For me, it makes the winter go by so fast. It's a great way to get off the couch, get out, get moving, and meet some new people. It's a very social sport," she said.

Rick Osbakken, president of the THCC, also curled with his folks, but has passed the game down to a third generation--his two daughters. He calls it a great family activity.

To encourage more people to come out and give it a try, the Two Harbors Curling Club has designated the week of Nov. 4 Curling Week with an open houses on Sunday, Nov. 4, from 2 - 5 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 5, from 5 - 8 p.m. Participants should wear clean shoes and comfortable clothing.

"The shoes don't have to be new, just clean," said Osbakken. Those who opt to play more often can learn more about the purchase of equipment--a slider to make it easier for one shoe to move across the ice and a curling broom, he said

People of all ages and abilities are among the 140 members of the THCC. Osbakken's own daughters started playing when they were five years old and some of the elder curlers are in their 80s, he said.

"It's something you can do at all ages," said Libby, " young kids to people in their 80s..and there are people from all walks of life. It's not an exclusive sport."

According to the group's website the first Two Harbors Curling Club started in 1963 "when the D.M.&I.R. Railway gave permission to a group of curlers to flood the floor of their storehouse building." Eventually a site was purchased and a pole building was erected with the help of volunteers, which would house the Club until just before the start of its 1991-92 season. The Halloween blizzard that year slowed the response of firefighters and the structure was lost to fire.

Now, however, with a permanent home, the club is busier than ever with curling every night of the week and members ready to welcome newcomers, said Osbakken.

The sport is played on a curling sheet, or rectangle of ice 146 feet long and between 14.5-16.6 feet wide. Two teams, or rinks, of four curlers slide (deliver) a total of sixteen heavy granite stones down the sheet toward the house, which looks like a target at the opposite end of the sheet. The goal is to get the stones closer to the center of the target than the opponent. Think shuffle board, but colder.

The stones are delivered by one player while two players try to control the stone's trajectory by sweeping or brushing the ice. The brushing motion warms the ice creating a smoother surface for the stone and allowing it to slide further or in a particular direction.

"It's like chess on ice," said Osbakken," it's more than just throwing a rock. There's a lot of finesse involved, a lot of finesse."

Both Osbakken and Libby enthusiastically invite people to attend the open houses or just come and watch.

"We try to accommodate as many people as we can," said Libby. "It's a great sport for all ages and abilities and it keeps us active."

"We keep our doors open for people," said Osbakken. "Novices play on Sundays and people can just show up or they can contact someone in the club [and get more information."]

For more information, the THCC website is