Curling in Central Otago. © Jill Ferry Photography

Central Otago: good curling to ye

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No one really knows where the peculiar sport of curling originated, but there’s no doubt it was the Scots who took it to their heart and kept it there when they migrated to New Zealand, just in case they found climate and terrain suitable for play.

Well, it’s hard to imagine a better landscape or a better climate than the Māniototo plains, with their hard frosts and bitter winters. The father of New Zealand curling, Thomas Callender, founded the first club – where else but in Dunedin – in the 1870s and the first reported game in the Māniototo took place on 6 July 1878.

Snowing in Naseby #winter #snow #centralotago #cold

A post shared by Hayley (@hayleyjasminecorry) on Jul 10, 2017 at 4:42pm PDT

Then, as now, an ancient form of the game is played here that is all but forgotten in the rest of the curling world.

In common with the kind of curling that has been an official Olympic sport since the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, players of ‘crampit curling’ deliver 20kg granite stones from one end of an ice rink (or ‘sheet’) toward a target (the ‘tee’, or ‘house’) at the other. Players from opposing teams take turns doing this, with the closest stones to the target scoring points for their team. The rules are not unlike lawn bowls, even if the language – you’ll often hear players encouraging one another to ‘crack the egg’ – is rather different.

Unlike Olympic curling, where the players set their stones in motion from down on one knee and gaining purchase with their toes in holes (‘hacks’) in the ice, crampit curlers deliver them from a standing position on a metal plate called a crampit. In all forms of the game, team-mates of the player who has delivered the stone accompany it down the rink, madly ‘sooping’ the ice – sweeping it with brooms to polish away ice crystals that slow its progress. It’s a strange ritual to the uninitiated.

Don’t be afraid to give curling a go. Like all enthusiasts of niche activities, curlers are only too happy to welcome newcomers to the sport.

And as you don’t actually need to lift the stone – indeed, damaging the ice is frowned upon, much like digging up a cricket pitch – anyone can play.

And what’s more, they can play year round, as the picturesque little town of Naseby, which aspires to be the ‘ice capital’ of New Zealand, has just opened an Olympic-standard curling rink.

Best of all, a curling tournament (or ‘spiel’) traditionally finishes with a plate of beef and greens washed down with whiskey. Now we’re talking. Good curling to ye! 

#naseby #winter #snow #luge

A post shared by Craig Sherson (@pschnauzer) on Jul 13, 2017 at 12:08am PDT

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