It's a sport that dates back centuries—all the way to 16th century Scotland according to worldcurling.org—but it's new to us.
“I think you can pick it up very quickly,” said national champion and Onalaska native Toni Paisley. “Some people pick it up quicker than others, but you can get a grasp of it in one evening.”
...Or morning as we step onto the ice at the Green Island Ice Arena to learn from Paisley, who despite going to nationals now three times, is only a seven year veteran of the sport.
“From the first time I threw the first rock I just fell in love with it.”
We begin with the basics. It starts with learning how to push off the hack. That's the device that looks like a runners' starter block and gives every shot its power.
“It takes some time to get used to,” Paisley said.
And were not even to the throw yet. When it comes to releasing the rock so it gets that perfect curl, less is more.
Paisley advised, “Think of it like a nice gentle handshake.”
Soon it's time to put it all together.
“It's terrifying to let go the first time,” she said.
And after a few more hiccups, we start to get the hang of it. Then comes the real test.
“This is a gentleman's sport,” Paisley said. “We're all really nice to each other.”
Nice or not, there's still plenty of competition involved in a game.
The goal is to get more of your team's stones closer to the center of "the house", or target area, than those of your opponents. It starts with a throw, then the sweeping to help it along to a target set by "the skip".
Paisley said, “There's so many different positions on a team—each one has its own small niches—so there's a spot that works for your type of personality.”
...Even those of us who wake up too early in the morning.
“I love that its an inter-generational sport...We all come together,” said Paisley.
In the end, it took just a couple of hours from our first little steps on the ice to sliding like a pro—or at least well enough to impress one.
“You did fantastic! Probably the best students I've ever had.”
The La Crosse Curling Club invites anyone interested in trying the sport to visit Green Island on Sunday nights at 5:30 where they have instructors on hand who can teach newcomers the sport. They also have regular leagues throughout the week. To learn more, check out the club's website.
To check out our other Daybreak Does It episode where we went on the La Crosse Segway Tour, click here.