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Plenty of locals learning to 'hurry hard' thanks to Burlington Curling Club

Twice-yearly Learn to Curl program for adults fills up quickly

Curling clubs, like most social outlets the past few years, have been affected by the pandemic.

One of the ways the Burlington Curling Club is attempting to bring the membership numbers back from pre-Covid days is the resumption of its twice-yearly Learn to Curl program for adults. The spring session is wrapping up its courses next week with the last of five weekly sessions on Saturday afternoons.

Forty prospective curlers take part in the sessions at the New Street facility just east of Drury Lane. They’re the lucky ones who get a spot in a program that always has a waiting list.

Derek Vachon, who sits on the BCC’s board of directors, leads the classes with help from 10 or more instructors each week.

“This year I’ve been very fortunate to have more than enough (instructors) so we can rotate some in and out,” Vachon said. “They’re very enthusiastic and helpful.”

Covid was the major reason for a downturn in memberships in the curling community.

“Numbers in most clubs have gone down, but our club is quite healthy and active,” said Vachon.

“Without checking the data,” Heather Riley, another board member, adds, “I think we’re one of the largest clubs in Ontario. Before Covid there was a waiting list to join the club. This is the first year I can remember that we have space. A lot of people moved away or retired or didn’t feel comfortable coming back.”

The learn-to-curl program allows those interested in taking up the sport an easy way to experience the club surroundings and hit the ice in a stress-free environment.

In the first week of the program, curlers go over safety rules, get familiar with the pebbled ice and how to move around, and of course, deliver rocks with enough force that they make it to the other end of the sheet. 

“We try to teach them to deliver from the crouch position,” says Vachon. “Those with knee issues who are uncomfortable are allowed to (stand and) use the stick.”

In Week 2, registrants learn to turn the rocks to provide the proper curl and work on the right weight to throw for accuracy. A week later they could be playing simulated games with instructors giving them guidance from both ends of the sheet. The remaining weeks focus on playing the game and honing their skills on calling shots and delivering rocks. 

Vachon says about half of the new curlers have signed up to curl at the Grand Mixed, throwing lead rocks and joining in all the festivities surrounding the two-week, end-of-the-year bonspiel. It’s a good opportunity for the new curlers to practice their new skills.

Two of the program’s participants, Pamela Tayler and her husband Matthew, were interested in taking the course and possibly joining one of the available leagues at BCC. Pamela has enjoyed her first four weeks.

“I think it’s amazing,” she said during a short break in the action. “(They’re) showing me how to curl, making me more comfortable with being on the ice. The instructors are incredible every step of the way in helping us out. I went from being afraid to really enjoying this.”

The Burlington couple hope to use their new curling skills by signing up for Grand Mixed bonspiel, and possibly joining a league.

That’s what organizers of the course are hoping to hear.

In addition to the obvious goal of teaching the proper technical skills of the sport, the clinics are a way to keep membership growing. 

“Definitely,” says Vachon. “We have a long waiting list for Learn to Curl. This is a program we started in 2017, and except for Covid years, it’s been going on twice a year.”

Club membership numbers are hovering around 670, he added, with around 750 the optimum number that would be “comfortable” for the five-ice sheet facility.

The LTC program’s success has caught the eye of the curling section of the Burlington Golf and Country Club on North Shore Blvd.

“They have approached us for information on the program so I’m meeting with them (soon),” Vachon says.

Anyone interested in having their name added to the wait list for BCC’s next Learn To Curl program, which costs $129 plus HST, should email the BCC club manager at [email protected].

Learn to Curl student Cat Workman (left) is all ears as Burlington Curling Club instructor Steve Burgie gives her pointers before she delivers a rock at the club on Saturday. The five-session program ends next week.


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Kevin Nagel

About the Author: Kevin Nagel

Kevin Nagel has been reporting and photographing events in Burlington for over 40 years as a sports/news editor.
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