The basic essence of curling is to slide a 40-pound hunk of granite (called a rock in curling lingo) at a target (called a house) painted 140 feet down a sheet of ice. Teams consist of four curlers who each throw two rocks. The team that has its rocks closest to the bull’s-eye (the button) scores.
It is called curling because when throwing a rock, you spin it. This spin causes the rock to turn (or curl) as it proceeds down the ice. Much of the strategy comes from placing guards in front of the house around which you must curl your rocks. As more shots are made than missed (and only one team can score per end) the chess analogy quickly becomes evident.
The difficulty in describing the game to someone unseen is that it can often sound silly. Sliding a rock down ice? You call that a sport? Admittedly, it sounds strange, and it is about to get worse because you also have to sweep.
To help you make your shot your teammates sweep the ice with a broom (yes, an actual broom). While this may sound completely ridiculous, sweeping is a key component to the game and it is a team’s sweeping ability that often makes the difference in the game’s outcome.
Firstly, with less friction, it travels farther. A well-swept rock can travel ten feet farther than an unswept rock. Secondly, the lowered friction also causes the rock to curl less. Often, however, a team wants a rock to travel farther AND curl, or vice versa, demanding a fine judgment call. Great curlers take tremendous pride in their sweeping, and those who can best “read” (or judge) the ice win championships.