Curling is generally seen as an affordable sport and for the most part, it is. However, it’s easy to get caught up thinking you need everything to be top of the line in order to enjoy the sport. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
While it’s lovely to have a carbon fibre shaft curling broom, (I wouldn’t trade mine for anything but I teach curling for a living and spend the majority on the winter on the ice) at $200 bucks a pop it seems like an excessive expense if you’re just starting out. Fear not! There are tonnes of reasonable options out there that will work just fine for someone who is curling once or twice a week.
When it comes to brooms your options are synthetic or hair. It’s all about personal preference. I like hair myself but synthetic (the heads covered with cloth) are also very popular and just as good. Many pro shops will let you try them out on the ice or sometimes they have a piece of synthetic ice you can actually demo on in the store. Take the time to try a few out if you can to get a better sense of what feels best to you. Keep in mind you want something you find easy to move and something you feel comfortable putting a lot of pressure on.
Generally brooms should not be purchased second hand unless you plan to just buy the shaft used (this feature is only available on newer brooms, if you do go this route double check the head is detachable with screws) and replace the head with a brand new one. The reason for this is broom heads typically need to be replaced every 1 -2 years, more often if you curl more than a couple times a week. If you’re buying a used broom there’s no way of knowing how long it’s been sitting around, if it’s been used to clean the snow off someone’s windshield, or if it’s simply been worn out.
As for shoes, for your first season you may wish to opt for a slip-on slider. They’re cheap and they work great. They do get a little tiresome after a while as they tend to move around a bit on your foot, you have to remember to take it with you to the end you’re throwing from, and often you have to sit down to take them on and off.
If you do want to purchase shoes keep in mind that top of the line isn’t always best for beginners nor is it economical. The more expensive shoes often have very fast sliders on them (the thicker the slider the faster it goes and the more expensive it is). Ask in the pro shop for a beginner shoe. There will generally be several different styles (they’re even starting to come in colours other than black now!). Sometimes you can demo them. If you are going from a slip-on to a shoe with a fixed slider be aware you will likely find it to be a little slick at first but you’ll get used to it quickly.
One thing you never want to skimp on is a gripper. Unfortunately, they wear out quickly (I go through several a season). For someone curling once a week they should be replaced at least once a year. Keep an eye on the rubber to make sure it isn’t flaking off as often times when rocks are consistently picking it can be blamed on either dirty brooms or flaking grippers.
Have fun shopping and have fun on the ice! Watch next week for more beginner tips.