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Do you have the stones?


Des Moines Curling Club President Nate Boulton delivers a stone at one of the club’s open houses.

Des Moines Curling Club President Nate Boulton delivers a stone at one of the club’s open houses.

If you’re someone who thinks a curler is just one of the many tangled torture devices your girlfriend keeps under the sink, and a broom is something her mother uses to fly over for a visit, then you are not familiar with one of the greatest winter sports ever created. Take the simplicity of bowling and shuffleboard, mix it up, then complicate the action by putting it on ice, and you can begin to have an understanding of curling.

For those who haven’t been watching the Winter Olympics, curling is one of the strangest, exciting, perplexing and intriguing events on the ice. It’s a sport that looks like it takes about 10 minutes to learn but a thousand years to explain.

“The name comes from the curling path the stones take as they travel down the ice,” said Nate Boulton, president of the Des Moines Curling Club. “The basic object of (curling) is to slide heavy granite stones down a sheet of ice to a target area — or the ‘house’ in curling terms — and get as many stones for your team closer to the center of the house than your opponent.”

A single game of Olympic curling features 10 “ends.” Ends are like baseball’s innings. In every end, each team throws eight stones in back-to-back order. The team whose stone lands closest to the center of the target area gets to count up its score for that end: One point is added for every stone it has in the “house” if it is closer to the center than the closest stone of the opponent.

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Think you’ve got it?

For those who prefer to watch the action live rather then on television, check out this year’s Iowa Curling Cup. About two months ago, Dave Diers came up with the idea for a curling tournament while “tossing back a few cold ones with some friends at AJ’s on East Court,” he said. People thought he was crazy, but, after a few phone calls, Diers had set up the place, equipment, teams and funding.

“That was the fuel that lit the idea of putting on a tourney,” Diers said.

He and Boulton are hoping this is just the beginning for curling around Des Moines. The Iowa Curling Cup is an eight-team open tournament for new curlers including introductory lessons before the challenge begins. People of just about any age or fitness level can participate with a fair amount of success, but “there is a lot of skill involved with being able to play well,” Boulton said.

“The sport is a lot of fun. It’s challenging, it’s social, and the curling community is made up of a great group of people,” Boulton said. “But there is a reason why we tend to see the same curlers representing the U.S. in the Olympics every four years.”  CV

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Get signed up for the Des Moines Open Bonspiel that is on March 2 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. It’s an eight-team open “short game” tournament for new and experienced curlers; $250 per team; proceeds benefit the Des Moines and Drake Curling Club.
2014 Iowa Curling Cup
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 23, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
WHERE: Brenton Skating Plaza; after-party at AJ’s on East Court
PRICE: Tournament is all booked, but to watch is free. Proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity.
INFO: Leagues play once per week from October through March. Email DMCurling@gmail.com to learn more or to register for 2014-15 leagues.

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