So, A Skip, A Vice and a Lead Walk Into A Curling Rink…


Jonathan Gibbons, real-life curler

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Curling was apparently not invented by a couple of Scandinavian stoners who had a few brooms, big rocks, and plenty of free time on their hands. The sport originated in Scotland roughly around the 1400s. That makes the sport older than hockey, basketball, football, and baseball.

Mind: blown.

Nevertheless, the sport has alluded the masses for centuries and is only now starting to gain a foothold in popular culture as a result of the Olympics. It is slowly replacing soccer as the trendy sport to know.

So, we sought out a real-life curler to gain insight into the life of a curler.

Hardcore curler, Jonathan Gibbons, provided us with this glimpse into his curling world. His story is below.

Tell me about your role in curling? 

When I play with my normal teammates I’m either the skip or the vice. The skip’s responsibility is to call the strategy, and also to judge whether or not the rock needs to be swept as it’s sliding down the ice. The skip also throws the last stones in each end (an “end” is like an inning in baseball). The vice does a little bit of everything, including collaborating on strategy with the skip, throwing the two stones preceding the skip’s stones, and sweeping the first four rocks of each end.

What got you started in curling?

I saw it briefly during the Olympics in the 90’s, and it looked awesome, but I had a hard time finding information about how to get started. In 2010, I found a curling club near my home and tried it out. I was hooked immediately.

So, what’s so appealing about curling?

There are a lot of nuances to the game. It’s a true team sport. It requires balance, endurance (sweeping for two hours gets exhausting!), precision, intelligence, and communication. No team can be successful without all five of those things.

Additionally, curling is just a ton of fun. My fellow curlers are really great people to be around, and we all like to be social and have a good time. Sportsmanship is hugely important in curling. You call your own fouls. Everyone shakes hands before and after the game and wishes each other good curling, and when the game is over the winning team often buys the losing team a round of drinks.

How does the Olympics help to popularize curling?

In the USA, the Olympics are the only forum we have to popularize curling. I know people joke around about curling and always think that anyone can do it. And you know what? They’re right. Anyone can pick up curling and probably not suck at it enough to have fun. Which is the beauty of it. But the guys in the Olympics? They’re on a different level. It’s not even close. You would have to make curling a full-time job to even have a prayer at getting to the point those guys are at. And it would probably take you several years.

That being said, it’s important for people to see it in the Olympics because it gets them to the clubs. Every four years curling clubs see a huge boost in membership.

What other avenues does curling have for becoming more mainstream?

It will just take time, honestly. There are so many popular sports in the USA, we just need it to be televised on a more regular basis. Web streaming is nice and all, but if you watch a Canadian telecast of curling, it’s just as professional as an NFL broadcast is here. If we had TV coverage like that, even on NBC Sports or an equivalent channel, the sport would grow in popularity no question.

Just tell me cool shit about curling. 

You can be competitive against people of a similar skill level even in your first year. There are curling bonspiels (tournaments) throughout the USA which are geared towards people who have been playing for 5 years or less. I’m in my 4th year, and the team I play on recently competed in the men’s 5-and-under championship for the entire Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast regions of the USA. There were 44 teams in the bonspiel and we won the whole thing. It was pretty awesome!

Even though most of the guys on our team were in their 4th year, it doesn’t take that long to be competitive. In our 2nd year we finished in 4th place in the same bonspiel. Last year we finished in 6th. That’s still pretty solid considering there are usually between 40-50 teams that compete in that tournament.

How could curling be better?

I don’t know that there’s much I would change. It’s pretty great the way it is.

Let’s say I want to start playing curling. How the hell do I go about doing that? Where do I go to get the gear? Where do I play? How do I convince other people to play on a team with me? How do I prevent myself from getting punched in the stomach when I ask other people to be on a curling team with me?

Well, the internet makes finding a club easy. Chances are there is one near you somewhere. You actually don’t need to buy a thing to start. Your local club has all the equipment you need. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll probably want to buy a broom and some shoes. A decent broom will run you about $40, and a good beginner’s pair of curling shoes are around $150. Once you become a club member somewhere, you’ll start playing in leagues, and you’ll meet people. Teams just kind of form themselves.

If you could bang any Olympian who would it be?

I’d say the entire Russian women’s curling team.

Anna Sidorova

Psssht. It is Johnny Weir, isn’t it?

Don’t bring your fantasies into this.

Are you sure it’s not Johnny Weir?

What you do in your own time under the covers when nobody’s looking is your business, dude.

Stop lying.

You stop lying.

What online resources can people use to learn how and where to curl?

It’s pretty much as simple as a Google search. Here are some examples:

Curling for Dummies
The Curling School
Wold Curling Federation
WikiPedia

Lame. What else do you have to say about curling that I didn’t ask you?

It’s really a sport for people of all ages. Anyone can play and have fun and be at least mildly competitive. It’s also perfect for anyone looking for a winter activity.

On a final note, we will leave you with this: