Not traditionally considered a warm weather sport, curling got a little taste of summer over the last two weeks in Kelowna.
For the first time since the early 1980s, the Kelowna Curling Club installed ice during the summer months, with nine sheets being put to use between June 22 and July 6.
Thanks to two new dehumidification units, conditions were ideal over the two-week period, as the club hosted two camps and a Canada Day weekend bonspiel.
“This was a test run this year, we wanted to know if the demand was there and see how people responded to it,” Kelowna Curling Club manager Jock Tyre. “Next year, we’re looking at maybe opening up for three or four weeks, adding some more camps and hopefully having programs that will involve the city.”
The first event the club hosted this summer was an ice-makers course, followed up by a four-day bonspiel featuring 18 teams—14 of those from outside the Okanagan—over the July 1 weekend.
Then late last week, 72 curlers from across B.C. and as far away as Alberta attended Curl B.C.’s Rock Slide junior camp.
Eleven coaches were on hand to provide on-ice technical and skills training to athletes between eight and 19 years of age. The off-ice component featured a sports psychologist, mental techniques, team building and team dynamics. Camp participants even spent part of the 3 1/2 day camp outdoors to enjoy wide range of activities.
“It’s a real fun environment, a good mix of fun and learning,” said Brett Grunerud, a 13-year-old curler from Kamloops. “It’s amazing how much they’re able to cram into one day.
“Inside, it’s been really good, the ice conditions are the same as during the winter. It’s really a neat thing to do, a lot of the other winter sports do it, so why not curling in the summer ? I’ll come back next year, for sure.”
Curl B.C.’s Elisabeth Walker-Young oversaw the junior camp’s first stop in Kelowna and was encouraged by the response.
“The summer camps is something different, something for kids who love the sport to get excited about,” said Walker-Young special project coordinator for Curl B.C. “We’re hoping to have more curlers in next year and follow it up at the end with a junior spiel.”
One of the coaches at the junior was Kelowna’s Gerry Richard, a former Canadian and world champs, who likes the concept of summer camps.
“It’s a long time between the end of a curling season and the beginning of a new one, so this kind of connects the dots, you could say,” said Richard. “It’s a great idea, the club has stepped up, and it’s a great time to get different coaches together and exchange ideas.”
With April, May and September being busy months with trade shows at the Kelowna Curling Club, Jock Tyre late June and July are the best time to host off-season curling camps and spiels.
If the adequate revenue can be generated by remaining open, Tyre expects the ice to be in for as long as a month next summer.