Curling since 2015, James Brickey brought the sport to the desert in 2017 with the formation of the Roadrunner Curling Club, aiming to introduce more people to the sport while forming a community in the process.
The club meets at least three times per week, which includes lessons on Thursday nights and opportunities to compete. However, learning is a crucial principle of the club even when competing, according to Brandon Wichman, a club member.
“It's a great social thing. It's a team sport, But also, the great thing about curling is (that) everything is camaraderie. Everyone wants to be together. They want to help each other out, you'll find — even when we're playing another team,” Wichman said.
Brickey said when the club first started, most people who showed up had little idea of how to play the sport, but once people started to pick it up, it allowed for more competition.
“Then (we were) only running two days a week. And in those two days, I think only four of us had ever curled before,” Wichman said. “A lot of people didn't even know rules, so I was more acting as the official and referee and scorekeeper.”
Paul and Connor Cook are a father and son duo who showed up to learn how to curl on a Thursday night. Connor Cook, an athlete on the club hockey team at the University of New Mexico, said that while there is some similarity, curling is a very different sport from fellow ice-based sport hockey.
“We've been around the ice but never tried curling. You see it on TV and stuff looks cool. And then they had an advertisement (at) one of his games, and so we just thought we will give it a try. Really, it's no more than just an opportunity to try something (new),” Paul Cook said.
The club strives to draw people in via advertisements at the rink and general exposure through public practices during free skating at the Outpost Ice Arena, according to Brickey. They also brings in people who moved to New Mexico from colder climates, like Wichman.
The club provides all equipment for those who join. The necessity of a smooth rink makes skates a no-no, which leads to needing to learn how to slide instead of skate, according to Brickey.
“(There’s) very little that's needed in terms of equipment; these two guys are out here (have on) running shoes. We have sliders and stabilizers; we have the rocks; we have the brooms — you don’t have to buy a lot,” Brickey said.
The Olympics are often when most participants are introduced to the sport, with a big increase in club membership after the 2018 Olympics when the USA men’s team brought home the gold. While the COVID-19 pandemic caused the club to decrease in size, they are starting to see pre-pandemic numbers again, according to Brickey.
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Some common misconceptions about the sport include participants doing both sweeping and throwing instead of just one or the other. The game is also more difficult than people realize, according to Brickey, who was instructing the lessons alongside Grant Sibley and Wichman. However, that does not mean luck is not a component, especially on less-than-ideal hockey ice.
“People who have played for a year here are competing just as well as people who have played since they were kids,” Brickey said.
The educational component of the game translates to larger competitions as well, according to Brickey. When available, members of the club will compete in teams of four in competitions outside of Albuquerque. These provide chances to meet and learn from other curlers.
Whether it be at a competition or a Thursday night, the club strives to focus on camaraderie.
“It's fun to see new people learn, this is what I started with: Thursday night lesson that got me hooked,” Sibley said. “It's fun to talk to these people and see the different interests that got them wanting to try this out.”
To join the club, you can register for a lesson on their website roadrunnercurling.org.
Maddie Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @maddogpukite