Pro Curlers Sweeping Their Way to the Podium

Nugget Column #12 – Tuesday December 7th, 2015

As a result of larger purses, improved ministry funding, and more prestigious events (including, of course, the Olympics) Curling is seeing a real evolution from amateur sport to an elite and professional scene with full-time athletes and more desirable rewards.

Of course, with greater rewards come greater challenges, and with greater challenges comes the necessity to expose every advantage over the competition.

And so it began. A better mousetrap was construed and manufacturers of curling brooms ended up pushing each other past their soon to be limits.

On November 27th Curling Canada released a moratorium on brush-head technology ultimately banning the IcePad by Hardline (used in its original form) from all events leading to a Curling Canada or World Curling Federation event.

Among the more notable points in this document were:

  • Brush-head fabric that has been embossed/sealed/textured/modified from its original woven form will not be allowed on the field of play. The process of embossing is often undertaken for the purpose of waterproofing the fabric by making use of coatings like polyurethane, acrylic, PVC, etc. and produces a “plasticized” look.
  • Brush heads containing “hardening” or “stiffening” materials inserted between the outer fabric and the internal cushioning material of the brush head, are not allowed on the field of play.

Besides the brushing equipment itself, athletes are exploring sweeping techniques that will give them an edge over other top teams.

For example, when watching curling on television as of late, you will notice times when only one brusher is sweeping and the other is not.
If you watch carefully this only occurs when they team is sweeping exclusively for line. If a draw to the button moving right to left requires sweeping to hold the line you will see the inside sweeper (positioned on the side of the rock to which it is curling) brushing the outside of the stone. If greater curl or finish is required after the “breaking point” (about two thirds of the way down the ice where curl begins to onset) you will see the outside sweeper engage. This is because the brusher’s push stroke is significantly stronger than their pull stroke. It is believed that if both sweepers act at the same time, it can only negate the efforts of the sweeper warming the side of the rock required to make the shot.

Here are some other research findings that may challenge your conventional knowledge:

  1. Sweeping doesn’t actually melt the ice. The best sweepers in the world can only increase the surface temperature by approximately 2 degrees Celsius (most clubs keep their ice around -5 degree Celsius).
  2. Top sweepers can extend the path of the stone by 6 to 7 feet, and keeping the rock “clean” (with firm pressure on the brush head) can extend the distance a rock travels by 2 to 3 feet.
  3. Rather than turning the pivoting brush head on your “new school” broom in a way that creates more room for the second sweeper to get closer to the stone, keeping the short side of the head oriented towards the rock will create a more even heating pattern will have greater effect on the path of the stone.
  4. Sweeping at 45-degree angle in front, instead of straight back and forth, will more effectively steer the rock in the intended direction.
  5. Sweeping outside of a 3-foot area from in-front of the leading edge of the stone is useless. Skips – watch the line and learn the ice; your sweepers have everything under control.

 

Bobby Ray
General Manager
North Bay Granite Club