When winter arrives in all its white and icy glory the dams and ponds of Central Otago freeze over and the locals eagerly spread out across them to play the ancient Scottish ice sport of curling.
Generations of families have passionately engaged in curling since the 1870s. It requires unique skills and has a friendly, fair play etiquette and time-honoured traditions. New Zealand’s best curlers compete internationally and they, like recreational users, now have access to the recently built, year-round, dedicated, Olympic-standard, indoor, rink in Naseby, New Zealand’s curling capital.
Curling is a bit like playing bowls on ice. Heavy (20kg), smooth granite stones are slid across a marked out rink. Two teams of four compete – the object being to get more of your team’s stones closer to the tee than your opponent does. Team-mates may sweep the ice in front of the stone to smooth its path.
Curling began during the gold mining era and was enthusiastically pursued by miners who introduced the traditional Scottish crampit-style game where the stone was lifted and swung out onto the ice. New Zealand curlers have come to embrace the modern sliding-style play, but the traditional ways are still alive and well on the ponds and dams.
Curling’s Bonspiel tradition also lives on. This two day competition between all the clubs is played on the Idaburn Dam at Oturehua when the ice is right. A Curlers’ Court is held on the last evening where a dinner of ‘beef and greens’ is enjoyed and young curlers are initiated into the fold.
Curling can now be played at any time of year at the Maniototo Curling International rink in Naseby. Curling is suitable for all ages and recreational users are welcome.
Instruction and equipment is available. Bookings are essential.