By Tara Goldstein
Curlers of all ages and experience levels meet at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel on select Saturday mornings in March and April for some breakfast and friendly competition.
While the Potomac Curling Club of the National Capital Area Inc. hosts other events at the rink, its Saturday Morning Breakfast Extravaganza is a fan favorite, organizers said. Registration opens at 8 a.m. and by 8:01, all 32 spots are filled, according to Keith Wood, program coordinator. The event includes 90 minutes of practice followed by socializing over breakfast. Participants are then divided into teams before heading back to the ice around 10 a.m. to play.
“It’s not a league game, so everyone is just there to have fun,” said Kevin White, also a program coordinator. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm among members and within the community.”
Curling is a sport that involves players sliding stones along a sheet of ice toward a target area marked with four circles. A lot of the curiosity surrounding the sport comes from people seeing it on their televisions during the winter Olympic games. The sport gets even more popular and club memberships tend to go up during Olympic years, according to White.
“It’s a bucket list item for a lot of people,” White said. “But some go once and others keep coming back.”
While most of the club’s spots are designated for members who know how to curl, there are 12 open spots for non-members, and all skill levels are welcomed. The 90-minute practice before breakfast is designed for participants who know nothing and covers different techniques and shots.
The extravaganza, which has been going on for more than ten years, was originally geared more toward members, White said. The program coordinators have been changing the event’s focus to include non-members and connect more with the community, according to White. Emphasis now is on instruction and simply having a good time.
Participants bring different skill levels, with some trying it out for the first time and others having professional experience. Emily Schmidt, from Carol County, was trying curling for only her second time at the Feb. 25 event. Another player, Naomi Huang, from Bethesda, won a world championship playing for an alternate curling team from Taiwan.
Teams include players across skill levels. Schmidt and her husband, Alex Schmidt, who is also a beginner, were on the same team along with more experienced curlers.
The Schmidts have enjoyed the events they’ve attended and plan to keep coming back. They also loved socializing over breakfast and stayed after the game for broomstacking, a curling tradition where the winning team buys the losing team a drink.
“There’s no such thing as a rude curler,” Alex Schmidt noted.
Curling is a friendly sport that involves a lot of comradery, and Potomac Curling Club strives to keep this tradition of broomstacking alive, Tim Leroy said.
Leroy has been a member at Potomac Curling Club for 10 years and describes the community of curlers as extremely friendly, welcoming and supportive. Everyone always seems to get along, he said, and the teams usually fill events with funny stories and laughter.
“There’s never any trash talk. It’s usually just things like ‘what movie have you guys seen?’” Leroy said. “Everyone’s friends. It’s just a friendly sport.”
The Saturday Morning Breakfast Extravaganza is volunteer-based, and club members are usually eager to help, according to Beau Dure, who also serves as program coordinator.
Participants’ ages vary, with curlers from 12 years to 70 years old playing against each other on the ice. One of the youngest, a 12-year-old, has incredible form and loves coming with her father, Dure said.
Dure usually puts together the teams, and he works to make sure there’s a good mix of personalities. People don’t really care about the scores, he said, and he hopes that everyone has at least some success.
The Potomac Curling Club’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Extravaganza takes place on select Saturdays in March and April at the Gardens Ice House, 13810 Old Gunpowder Road. For more information, go to curldc.org or call 301.362.1116