Northwest Wanderings | Seattle's Granite Curling Club is the epicenter of curling in the Northwest. And now that the U.S. has captured its first-ever Olympic curling gold, this nationally-known spot is likely to get a lot busier.
There’s no trash talking in curling, unless it’s “encouragement” to a teammate. Curlers are polite, cold-weather-nice where you don’t waste your breath. They compliment opponents on a good shot. They call their own fouls. At the last Winter Olympics there were reports of other athletes taunting the curling teams. This is not shuffleboard on a sheet of ice. The sport is dynamic, precise, tactical and athletic. Try running down the sheet (the lane) with one shoe that grips and the other that slips and slides, while changing the deceleration and trajectory of the stone with a broom for 20-second bursts. That’s a cardio workout. The Granite Curling Club’s arena, long the epicenter of the sport in the Northwest, has five sheets 14.2 feet wide by 150 feet long. It’s a bracing 40 degrees inside and there’s a freshness to the air. The curling stone is 42 pounds of special granite from Ailsa Craig, an island off the coast of Scotland. The club is home to a number of national and world champions, the most of any in the country. Luc Violette occupies Sheet No. 5, alone, practicing for the upcoming junior world championships in Aberdeen, Scotland. He’s a freshman at the University of Washington. His teammates live elsewhere. Em Good and husband Mac Guy are preparing for next month’s U.S. Nationals in Minnesota. They won the mixed national championships in 2016 and went to the world mixed championship. One of their teammates also lives elsewhere. For the release, these curlers support themselves with the broom angled out as they push off and elongate from the hack (the blocks), one knee barely above the ice. Their eyes are locked on the target, called the house, which are the concentric circles at the other end. It’s a smooth balletic move, giving a slight twist to the stone moving forward. It’s a nuanced game at this level where millimeters make the difference. Good says, “It’s strategy and tactics, balance and flexibility, and upper-body strength.” Violette spends four to eight hours in the gym each week, and up to 15 when he’s not getting ready for the next competition. In the background in the club house, Olympic curling in South Korea is broadcast to an audience of none. All local participants are on the ice in league play, honing skills or on lanes rented by companies for “team building.” On the ice Violette says, “I like the angles, the weird physics.” He says he tends to take a more conservative approach. When it comes to the hammer, the last stone released in a game, “I throw it high and hard.” Guy says he could never best Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, in a footrace. But, on the ice, Good and Guy would be a good bet.