Want to Curl Better? Maybe It’s Time for An Equipment Tune Up!
by Keith Scott
When our automobile is not working well, we get it into the garage for a tune up, oil change, and replace worn tires so that we feel more confident that it will get us safely from point A to point B. Why not do a similar type of check up with our curling equipment? It just might help us make more shots and win some of those close games.
The good thing is that we can do the check up ourselves and save on the overall maintenance bill. Here are some things that we should do on a regular basis.
Shoes & Grippers
Proper fitting curling shoes are a definite asset to curlers as they provide support and function. One sole is equipped with a slider and one with a gripper. The gripper is a soft crepe style of rubber that provides traction and stability. Unfortunately, it does break down quickly because of the interaction with the harder rubber in a hack and the foot work in the sweeping motion. Normally, we see a textured sole, but as the gripper wears down, small nibs of rubber form and these will break off—more often, than not—directly onto the ice surface. If ever there was a “pick” waiting to happen, this is it!
The same happens with the anti-slider (gripper for the slider foot). It is constructed with the same material and has the same properties. As it wears, it is another source of small pieces of rubber on the ice. The texturing disappears, the surface becomes smooth and the anti-gripper breaks down. Another “pick” waiting to happen! (Just don’t let it be on the last rock of the game—please!!)
Once the grippers have deteriorated to this point, you need to think about investing in new ones (sorry—that does impact the budget).
Before we get to that stage, there are some things we can do that involves a little “sweat equity.” Check your gripper to see if there is wear starting to show. If you see little nibs forming, take a pair of small scissors and cut them off. If a roll is starting to form, you can trim that off with the scissors as well. Check the areas around the heel and toe of the grippers as a lot of wear and tear will start there. Keeping your grippers in good condition is essential to keeping your playing surface in good condition.
The inside of the anti-slider is a great collector of unwanted grunge. The inside breaks down and can be a hiding spot of other things, such as lint from fleece jackets. These adhere to the slider, negatively impact your delivery and end up on the ice. Anti-sliders should be checked regularly every couple of weeks. Give them a warm bath, with a gentle detergent, and make sure they are fully rinsed and dried before putting them back into play.
Check your sliders. Most of these are made of Teflon. If you find a sharp edge on a slider, use something like an emery board to file it down. This will keep the slider from scratching the ice. If you see any deep scratches on the main surface of the slider, this can negatively influence your slide and delivery. You may have to make another investment and replace the slider.
One of the biggest sources of dirt on the ice is dirty brush heads. Guess where most of those rubber nibs from grippers and bits of lint end up. You got it—on the brush head.
The grunge is caked onto the fabric and greatly reduces the effectiveness of the sweeper. Bits and pieces will break off and litter the ice (another “pick” waiting to happen!)
Brush the head after every 2 or 3 times that you sweep. Make sure you clean into the garbage pail, not onto the carpet where someone can step on it and track it back onto the ice.
Give your brush head a bath. Some have suggested washing it in a dish washer, but I personally received the message, not going to happen in this house!! Remove the fabric head and give it a soak in warm water and mild detergent. After a few minutes, scrub it gently to remove the grime. Don’t scrub it so hard that you break the fibers in the fabric. Make sure to rinse the head thoroughly so that there is no residual soap left in the head. Ensure that the head is completely dry before putting back into play. It may take a couple of days for the drying.
For those that curl more than twice a week, you may want to think about purchasing a second head and alternating them. One can be in maintenance mode and you still have one for play. Minimize the use of the second one and keep it for bonspiels.
Our ice crew does an awesome job of providing us with a great ice surface to play on. When I have spoken with curlers from other clubs, one of the first things they mention is the high quality of ice that we have here. Let’s do our part in helping the ice crew by keeping our equipment in good shape and clean. Your game will benefit, your teammates will appreciate it, and everyone will have more fun.