Curling, the Olympic sport of sliding a 42-pound polished stone across ice to a target at the other end of the rink, and then using brooms to "sweep" it even further, is gaining traction here on Long Island.
Often called "chess on ice," curling is known for its civility and equal access across age and gender.
"You start with a handshake and wish your opponent well," says Shoreham resident Dannie Steski, who has been playing for 41 of his 50 years.
The Long Island Curling Club, now in its fifth year, recently held an open house to let the uninitiated give throwing the stone a try.
It was both easy and hard for first-timers Kathy and Vito Genova, a Franklin Square couple who described themselves as 50-plus. To aim it right, there needs to be a lot of control and balance. "I find it challenging," Vito Genova says. "There's a lot that goes into it."
The October and November training sessions will give prospective curlers an idea whether they want to join the league, which begins next month and continues through March with matches on Saturday nights.
A very popular game in Canada, curling most likely started in 16th century Scotland, where frozen marshes serve as the arenas and stones smoothed by water during summertime were used to throw. It has been an Olympic sport since 1998.
There are four players on a team: the lead, the second, the vice and the skip. There are eight ends (similar to innings in baseball) where players throw (slide) the stone, which has a handle on top. When it is thrown across the ice, it spins or "curls," hence the name of the sport. The object is to get it down the 150 feet from end to end, closest to the bull's-eye (or house) for points. Much like croquet, players can knock out opponents.
Another large part of the game is sweeping, where two players frantically brush the ice in front of the stone using small brooms to get more distance from it.
Stones can typically move 6 to 10 feet more during the sweeping, and it keeps the stone moving in a straight line.
"It's an easy game to play, but hard to master," Steski says.
EQUAL ON ICE
Looking out over the arena, spectators will see curlers of all ages, based on whether they can throw the stone (usually about 12 and older) and of both genders. During league play, teams are made up to even out the playing field, with the most experienced curlers with the newest members. There is no cursing, no temper tantrums and no referees -- and rules are followed by word of honor.
For some, that geniality on the ice was what brought them to the game.
"My husband and I watched curling on TV obsessively, and I told him I wanted to join a league," says Massapequa resident Amy Kalenscher, 28, who was in the lobby, rocking her baby in a stroller. "It's a social sport and not overly competitive."
It's social, indeed. The highlight of the evening is usually going out for cocktails afterward, players say.
"The winners buy the losers' drinks," says first vice president Dave Tumminello.
A LEAGUE OF OUR OWN
Many of the club's curlers originally played in Ardsley in Westchester, which has a long established curling club with its own facility (L.I. Curling Club uses Newbridge Arena, an all-purpose ice rink). In 2008, a few Long Islanders who played there decided to form a new league. Michael Greene was among them.
"I was tired of paying the tolls to Ardsley," he quips. "We needed curling on this side of the river."
WHEN | WHERE Instructional lessons 9:30-11:45 p.m. Oct. 26 and Nov. 2 at
Newbridge Arena, 2600 Newbridge Rd. (end of road on south end), Bellmore. League play begins 9:30 p.m. Nov. 9 and continues every other Saturday through March
INFO 516-855-8226, licurling.com
COST $30 for lessons; $325 for first year club membership and winter league play