Preparation for Outdoor Curling

It’s time for another curling update.

My ongoing foray into the crazy, impossible, inviting world of curling continues. Now in outer space!

Okay, maybe not outer space, but almost as crazy. A place where no sane human would ever date curl: outside.

Sure, the sport of curling started as an outdoor venture. It started in Scotland, because the crazy fucks who invented golf needed to keep themselves occupied during the half of the year when all of the water traps had frozen over.

Fun history fact: the reason Scots came up with all of the crazy sports (have you SEEN caber tossing?) is because the English wouldn’t let them have weapons. This was before weapons took the shooty, shooty, bang-bang form, so no weapons meant no pointy objects. So while the English nobles were perfecting things like archery and jousting, the Scots were busy making sports with crooked sticks and rocks. And telephone poles.

Over the past 200 years, however, people had the wise idea to move ice sports indoors, which is how I’ve always curled. But much like the NHL moving a few games a year to the local NFL stadium, there’s always gonna be some wisenheimer who creates, and a bunch of dumbasses like me who sign up for, a chance to experience it “au natural.”

Wait, doesn’t “au natural” mean naked? We’re not going to be curling nude, are we? Is it too late to cancel my trip?

Enter the Sawtooth Outdoor Bonspiel, abbreviated S.O.B. for good reason. Located in the bustling metropolis of Stanley (population 67) in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. Stanley claims the coldest average temperature in the lower 48 states. So, you know, they could probably get away with holding the bonspiel in May. But no, they choose the coldest month in the coldest spot.

It seemed like a really good idea back in September while we endured 100-degree heat in Sacramento. I’d been threatening to check this thing out from the moment I heard about it. But every year, something came up. Things like that other bonspiel in April. Or that family trip to Disneyland I was going to take a day off work for. Or, holy shit, how cold did you say it gets there? Negative five? Isn’t that when molecules stop moving?

But this year we had the typical toxic-masculinity, dick-measuring throwdown during broomstacking (the mandated drinking and bullshit session after each curling match). You know how it goes. “Dude, that sounds epic.” “Would you be in if I got a team together?” “Oh, I’d totally do that.” “What about you?” “C’mon man, gets your testicles out of the jar on your wife’s shelf!” “‘Samatta you? I’d fucking do it fucking shirtless.”

“Hey guys, we should totally open a bar!”

In the end, there were two of us waiting with fingers poised above keyboards and refresh buttons when registration opened at noon on November 1. Good thing, too. Cause registration filled up in less than one minute! I didn’t get in. According to the waitlist, my entry was received at 12:00:57, putting me second on the waitlist. Who woulda guessed so many people could get man-shamed into freezing their testicles off?

Fortunately one of my teammates made it in before me. He’s the try-hard amongst us and woulda been the fastest fingers, regardless. Had probably already calibrated his iWatch with Big Ben and called his internet provider fifteen times that morning to ensure he’s getting the proper megabytes per nanosecond. But to add to his usual alphaness, he had moved to Boise since our throwdown. Joined the club that organizes the SOB, got in their good graces. Learned all the dos and don’ts. Hell, for all I know he was sitting next to the guy who pushed the “go live” button on the website. So we were in, for sure.

To be clear, I don’t think he moved to Idaho specifically to ensure our entry into the outdoor bonspiel, but I’m also not sure it didn’t at least play a part in his decision process.

What ensued was 2-3 months of hilarious preparation. Three Cali dudes with no fucking clue about what to do when there might be white-stuff-that-is-neither-asbestos-nor-cocaine on the ground, led by a recent transplant experiencing his first autumn out of state, sending us constant updates about what 35 degrees looks like, how to dress in 30 degree weather and finally, in December, pictures of genuine snow.

As if being the coldest place in the known universe wasn’t enough, they also schedule draw times when the sun isn’t out. Even if it’s below freezing, the sun can melt the top layer of ice, which will make it very slippery. It sucks for curling, too, as the rock wants to sink into the water. You have to throw a lot harder, with a lot less control. A year ago, I curled in Southern California when it was 120 outside. As hard as they cranked the coolers, they couldn’t get the ice below 26-28 degrees instead of the usual 22 degrees. The result was virtually unplayable ice.

The S.O.B. accounts for these potential issues with nature by scheduling two draws in the morning and two at night. You might play your first game at 6:30 AM and your second one at 9:00 PM. At least there’s supposed to be free beer for the fifteen hours in between. We saw videos of previous S.O.B.s where the temperature for the first stone was -5. The high that day was 12. Yikes!

All kidding aside, I’ve been to the snow plenty of times. I can handle temperatures in the twenties with just a layer or two. One time we rented a cabin for New Year’s and it got down to the teens. I wore a light jacket when we went for a walk.

But I don’t know if I’ve ever been in negatives. Plus, this time we’re not just walking from the car to the house. We’re standing out on a frozen pond for two hours at a time. And while the other guys on my team are going to be walking back and forth and sweeping a lot, I’m going to be standing around getting no cardio. Hey, wait a second!

Guess I’m not just throwing two t-shirts and a pair of jeans in a duffel bag for this trip like I do for the majority of my bonspiels. We’re going full-sized suitcase and nothin’ but jackets.

The try-hard wanted us all to dress alike. He’d been assured that teams at this crazy bonspiel come up with costumes. You’re supposed to pick a motif and go all-in. So long as the motif isn’t tank-tops and g-strings. At a normal bonspiel, tank tops might actually be a thing. You’d be surprised how hot it gets when you’re sweeping a lot. But cargo shorts are about as skimpy as I’ve seen people go for the lower torso. Nobody wants to see g-strings. Actually, scratch that. There are a number of very attractive professional curlers, of both genders, who would probably look damn good curling in a g-string. But inevitably, the people most likely to wear a g-string are the people you probably don’t want to see in a g-string. It’s like when I was 19 years old and excited to see the nude sunbathers in European cities. But all I saw at the English Gardens in Munich were a bunch of 90-year-old scrotums hanging down past 90-year-old knees. Then it started to rain and the 90-year-old dudes took shelter under the same tree as me and started bending over to put their clothes back on. Some things you can never unsee.

In addition to this new “team costume” dictum, we also needed to come up with a team name. It’s tough. You want to be funny but not obscene. Original, but not obscure. There are tons of variations on the words sticks and stones and sweeping (rhymes with sleeping) and tapping and hitting and magical buttons. Okay, I haven’t seen any references to the center of the house being a clitoris, but maybe I just haven’t been to enough bonspiels.

Since we were going to be curling in sub-freezing conditions, some of us wanted to go the shrinkage route. I wanted the full team name to be SHRINKAGE!!! (with each exclamation point being a smaller font size than the previous one). Try-hard thought it was too vulgar. A bit too on-the-nose. Double entendres are fine. Single entendres are tacky.

He similarly kiboshed Shrinking Sticks. And Frozen Dicks. And Cock Up My Ass.

Okay, we didn’t actually suggest the last one. Not really curling or freezing related. But I’m sure he would’ve turned it down.

We finally agreed on Shrink n’ Dinks. I tried, once again, to amend it to Shrinkin’ Dinks, but was again denied.

It turns out there’s a beer made in Idaho called “Cali Creamin’.” Seeing as we are the only team from California, Try-hard thought Cali Creamin would be a good name for us. It’s a super well-known beer in Idaho, so most people in attendance would be in on the joke. Although really, how is Shinkin’ Dinks too offensive but Cali Creamin’ is perfectly acceptable? I had questions as to this particular line d’entrende.

Then we had to decide on costume. Try-hard wanted us to throw random NFL jerseys over our layered clothes. Not really sure if that’s a motif or a path of least resistance. Although I suppose it fits our original team name, because if any group of men have got a case of the Shrinkin’ Dinks, it’s all those ‘roiders in the NFL.

But while broomstacking one day, the other three of us decided to look up warm clothing options. What we needed, somebody posited, was something like a onesie. You know, those red jammies with the white footsies that kids wear. If only there were grown-up onesies.

It turns out there are grown-up onesies. Complete with the back door. They have wonderful wording on them, such as “Moose Caboose” and “Bear Cheek” and “Special Delivery.”

We decided to go with “No Peeking” for the lead, “Trap Door” for the second (in absentia), “Special Delivery” for the third (not shown) , and I would go with “Tail End” to wrap up our order. After the fact, our third went for “Tailgate.” Had he told me, I might’ve switched to “Moose Caboose,” but mine was already ordered.

Then we wonder… should we let the other guy know or should we just order them?

We ended up splitting the difference. We didn’t let him know until after the were ordered, so he couldn’t say no. But eventually we let him in on the secret. He was whining that he wouldn’t know what else to pack.

Which put us right back to team name. We now wanted to make reference to the back door. In curling, there is a shot called “Back Line Weight,” where you throw just hard enough to make it to the very back of the house without going out. It’s useful when you want to knock the opponent’s stone back but not remove it entirely, so that if the other team tries to knock yours out, there’s backing. So I suggested “Back Line Weight” or “Beware the Back Line.” Somebody else suggested “Back of House” or Back House Strategy,” both of which refer to the area of the house (bullseye) behind the button (middle).

The guy in charge of our name combined a few of our ideas and the next thing I knew, we were listed as “Back Door Strategy.” Uh, hello? Shrinkage is bad, but blatant anal sex references are okay? I’m surprised he didn’t go with “Creamin’ the Back Door.”
This time the three of us who enjoy the entendres pushed back. Back Door is too over the top. In the end, after months of round and round, we went with “On the Butt-on.” It’s a curling shot. When all else fails, just put the stone on the button. Of course, if it was so easy to do, then I’d win a lot more games.

At this point, we were ready to go. Seventy layers of clothing and 4-wheel drive rentals and onesies with back doors and “Put it On the Butt-on” in more ways than one.
Come back next week for a recap of how it all went.

Part Two Here.

Part Three Here.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

[…] originally intended for this post to be a two-parter.One for preparation, one for the Sawtooth Outdoor Bonspiel. But one of our games turned into an epic, inspiring poems […]

[…] of my first, and probably only, outdoor curling adventure. You can double-back to read about how a Cali dude prepares for negative temperatures and some of the off-ice happenings, such as how I slipped and sprained my goddamn wrist on the ice. […]

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