PORTLAND, Maine — For some sports fans, the Winter Olympics are the only opportunity to see some sports, and only every four years.
Among them, curling is one sport that many watching from home think they might be able to participate in.
“A lot of people do, [they] think it looks easy," said Benjamin Duffy, a board member of the Pine Tree Curling club. "It seems simple in concept but when you get out and play there are a lot of physical dynamics. You do have to be fit, you have to be agile."
Duffy and dozens of club members gather Sunday nights in Portland for their weekly league match.
“This isn’t exactly Olympic curling here at the Troubh Ice Arena, but it’s a lot of fun," Duffy said.
Wendee Rogerson lives in Maine now but grew up in Canada and curled during high school gym class. She's one of the veterans of the group and she can't be missed wearing Team Canada gear from head to toe.
The two club members helped explain how this sport works, and the explanation begins before any "rock" is thrown.
Because the rink's ice isn't created for curling, the club has to "pebble" the surface with water dimples that freeze. Then they drag "rocks" over the ice to rough it up.
Duffy said good sweepers can move the rock up to 15 feet further than it might otherwise stop.
Communication between the thrower and sweeper is also important, Rogerson added.
“Maybe the stone you let go of was too light, so you would want to let your sweeper know it’s too light and they may need to sweep that stone," she said, "or if it’s too heavy, to lay off and not sweep."
Duffy said a lot of strategy is involved in the game which typically lasts eight ends, with each team getting one throw per end. The team with the last throw has the scoring advantage.
“The first rocks tend to be guards," he said. "You tend to throw out front then work through the rest of the stones to position them in the house, as it’s called."
The house, or the rings you see on the ice, is the landing spot for the rocks. The button is the smallest circle in the middle.
"And so, you score one point for each stone that is closer to an opponent’s stone to the button," Duffy said.
While the score is all that matters in Beijing, curlers in Portland are there for a good time.
“We all started not knowing each other and now we’re all really good friends," Rogerson said. "I think curling kind of has that aspect to it. It has that community- social aspect."
“Usually there’s a lot of camaraderie in a curling club. Usually, the winners buy the losers a drink at the bar," Duffy added. "It’s good fun, it’s good exercise. It’s great to be able to come out and play a sport.”
The pair said curling is like chess but happens at a faster pace. Despite the physical requirements, Rogerson said anyone can play.
“Curling is a sport you can do for all ages," she said. "Even if you can’t crouch down onto the ice you can still curl. There’s equipment for that."
The club holds events to encourage new members to join and also hosts a number of clinics throughout the year.