Kyle Dubiak let out a bit of a scream as he propelled a stone down the sheet of ice at Little Thistle Brewing on Saturday afternoon.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said, recalling his first attempt at curling during the pop-up event hosted by the Curling Club of Rochester.
Curling is a sport similar to shuffleboard, with participants sliding “stones” across a sheet of ice at a target, to see who can end up with a stone closest to the bull's-eye.
After trying his hand at the sport, Dubiak said the ice, along with the use of a slider, made things less steady than he expected, which resulted in his unintended yelp.
His form started to take shape without unexpected sounds during the following 20 or so minutes, and he pointed to the fact that he won both rounds against his fiancée, Anna Stankovich, a former college curling participant.
Stankovich, who hadn’t been curling for four years, said it was good to be on the ice again, but added that the experience at Little Thistle was new.
“It’s a little different being outside,” she said.
The curling club had eight half-hour slots available Saturday for its fist pop-up event of the year, and past club president Kelsey Schuder said most of the slots appeared to be taken by people who were new to the sport, or at least the Rochester leagues.
“I think I recognized one or two people from the club on the list,” she said.
Stephen Russell, the current club president, said the group had approximately 120 dues-paying members last year, but COVID restrictions have resulted in a drop. At the same time, he said the club saw some new faces when it relaunched its leagues in November.
He said the first-timers, both in leagues and during Saturday’s event, are good to see, since other events aimed at recruiting newcomers had to be canceled because they couldn’t be conducted under COVID precautions.
Schuder said the weather hasn’t helped, either, since the club might have been able to hold other outdoor events if the ice could have been put into place earlier.
Club members were working to prepare the ice at Little Thistle three weeks before Saturday’s event, and they opted for a single sheet to help ensure proper physical distancing could be maintained as groups of up to four people nabbed the available afternoon slots.
Schuder said more events are expected to be scheduled, along with continued league activity, which Russell said has been limited due to COVID restrictions.
“We’ve seen interest and growth happen year over year,” Russell said of the 4-year-old club that was started by people who had been traveling to other cities for curling.
While COVID might have kept some members off the ice during the past year, he and Schuder said they expect to see numbers rebound and continue to grow.
Events like Saturday’s will likely help if Dubiak and Stankovich are any indication.
The couple, who moved to Rochester this year, said they are interested in watching for future Curling Club of Rochester activities to develop or rediscover their skills on the ice.
To learn more about the Curling Club of Rochester, visit www.curlrochester.com.