House Call: Late Season Equipment Check

Club Championships are upon us, the majority of the season has come and gone, it’s time to take a hard look at what we’ll take into next season. Here are some telltale signs it’s time to take advantage of end-of-season sales and replace worn out equipment. Shoes If you had a great season, you plan to stick with curling for a while, and you’re still using a slip-on slider it’s time to purchase a pair of shoes. They don’t have to be fancy, the beginner variety will do, but having the slider fixed to your sole will make a huge difference to your game. If you already have curling shoes the end of the season is a good time to take a look at them and decide if you need new ones for next season. It helps to start a season with new shoes instead of trying to break in a new pair in halfway through the year. I come across curlers all the time who have worn the same shoes for more than 10 years… sometimes waaaaaay more. I understand the attachment to a good pair of shoes. I have struggled to part with favourite pairs myself. When I was 14 I had a pair of Classics which I insisted on wearing until I was 18 even though I curled 5 times a week or more. Those shoes were so trashed by the time I retired them that I was consistently getting frost bite on the soles of my feet every game, the stuffing had come out of the heels, and the slider had been replaced three times. These days I spend even more time in my curling shoes and I’m older and not so keen on frostbitten, blistered feet. I purchase new shoes every one to two years. I would say for the average curler, let’s say someone who curls twice a week, new shoes are needed every 3 – 4 seasons. Here is a list of what you should expect from your shoes. If you can’t check ‘em all off it’s time to bite the bullet and go shopping!
  1. Your feet should stay relatively warm. Keep in mind you are standing on ice, let’s not expect miracles.
  2. Your feet should be supported and comfortable. You should not be getting blisters or sore feet by the end of a game.
  3. You gripper foot should not be flaking. Look closely at it, if you can see patches around the edges where pieces are starting to flake you need to either replace the gripper (if the rest of the shoe is still in good condition of course) or replace the shoes entirely. Do you really want to be responsible for stones on your sheet picking?
  4. Your slider should run smoothly. You should not notice pits in the surface and it shouldn’t be lifting away from the sole.
Broom Thou shalt not curl with the same broom head for more than 2 seasons max! Let’s repeat… Thou shat not curl with the same broom head for more than 2 seasons max! If you’re using hair the glue dries out and it gets dusty and disgusting and leaves crap on the ice. If you’re using synthetic your broom gets wet from the friction, picks up debris off the ice, and turns it into mud. The mud gets stuck in the fabric and either falls out and dirties the ice or stays on your broom and renders it useless. Keep the handle if you like but replace the head! If you have a broom with a fixed head I’m sorry but you need a new broom. If you want to recycle it keep it in your car for clearing snow or saw it into pieces and make tomato stakes out if it. ‘Nuff said! Gripper I go through several grippers a season. I don’t want to be the one leaving crap on the ice. Check your gripper often. Keep an eye out for the following signs you need a replacement:
  1. It should not be flaking.
  2. It should not have a hole in it.
  3. It should not be torn.
  4. It should still have enough nubbly bits to be grippy.
Purchasing new curling equipment is not about decadence or keeping up with the Joneses. It’s about keeping the game safe and enjoyable for yourself and others. Having faulty, old equipment does not make you a war hero or respected veteran of curling, it makes you a likely suspect when it comes to rocks picking due to gripper flakes or broom debris. You need not spend a fortune to keep your equipment up to date. You do need to replace it when it starts to fall apart and this will be more than once every 5 – 40 years (yes I’ve seen people play with the same broom and shoes for that long, if not longer!). Watch next week for more beginner tips.