Does curling have magic brooms?

In earlier days, brooms were made of corn strands and were similar to the household broom.

  • Oct. 27, 2011 10:00 a.m.

In earlier days, brooms were made of corn strands and were similar to the household broom.

The magical flying brooms used in the Harry Potter movies also has some striking resemblance to the old corn broom.  Quidditch, the game played in the Harry Potter movies, was also a team sport and required incredible balance to stay on the broom. OK so maybe the curling brooms aren’t magic, but there were similarities.

Unlike the flying brooms, the corn brooms produced not only deafening sounds, but also left considerable debris on the ice that could affect the course of the stones. Now you know where the phrase “keep it clean” came from.

These brooms eventually went the way of the dodo bird. Today the corn broom is rarely seen on the ice, although occasionally still used for delivery of a stone. Technological advancements in curling are about as rare as an eight-ender, not a lot changes. But brushes have replaced the traditional corn brooms.  Modern brooms are made of materials such as carbon fibre, which in turn allowing for faster sweeping.

Why do we sweep?

Sweeping is done for two reasons: to make the rock travel farther and to make the rock travel straighter with less curl. When sweeping, pressure and speed of the brush head helps to melt the pebbled ice in the path of the rock.  This is because the heat produced by the rubbing motion of the sweeping object melts the surface of the ice and produces a layer of lubricating water. The heat produced is the same as that produced when you rub your hands together on a cold day; the faster you rub, the warmer your hands become. Sweeping can increase the distance a rock can travel by as much as 10 to 15 feet, depending on the condition of the ice surface.

In 2006, Scottish scientists perfected a magic broom called “sweep ergometer” — a high-tech brush. The sweep ergometer is a training device used to measure the pressure on the brush and the speed of the sweeper in a bid to improve efficiency. In the 2010 Olympics, Martin’s rink used the magic broom and were accused of cheating after it was revealed they were using a “magic broom” developed by the Scottish scientists. What we do know is sweeping takes a lot of energy, because it must be fast and sustained for a short time period, like a sprint. Competitive curling requires a high physical fitness level, especially in endurance.

There may be brooms that can enhance sweeping, but regardless of the type of broom, sweeping is just honest to goodness hard work.

Term of Endearment

Hurry Hard: Shouted by the skip to tell the sweepers to sweep harder and faster, the stone could be light and/or the skip is trying to hold the line of the stone to prevent the rock from curling.

Around the House

Learn to curl clinic will be held Saturday, Nov. 12, 1 to 5 p.m. Pre-registration is necessary for this clinic.  Everyone welcome.

Opening One-Day Wreckspiel is Nov. 7. Register as an individual or a team.  $40 per person includes lunch, dinner and a prize.  Music by Penticton’s best one man band: Roland.

Our annual Christmas open house and member appreciation will be held Dec 17.   Music by Uncorked. Good curling sweeping beauties.

Kim Kirkham is the spokeperson for the Penticton Curling Club.