Sarah Aponte admits she thought the sport of curling, with its brooms, stones and ice, was a little odd at first.
“I love the Winter Olympics, and curling was something that was weird but interesting,” she says. “I had always wanted an opportunity to do it.
“Then, when my husband and I were looking to do something social and physical, this sport fit.”
Since 2016, they have been members of Tempe-based Coyotes Curling Club, which was formed in 2003. The organization plays in a 30,000-square-foot curling rink at 2202 W. Medtronic Way.
Most people are exposed to the U.K.-born event through the Winter Olympics, or, if they live in a U.S. state that borders Canada, on CBC TV. This year, however, at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics the U.S. team took home the gold.
Curling is a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice toward a target area that is segmented into four concentric circles.
Each team has five athletes, one of whom is an alternate. Two teams take turns to throw eight stones each. All 16 stones thrown by the two teams completes one “end.” The games, which last two hours and 40 minutes, have 10 ends.
Coyotes Curling Club spokesman David Twohig says there is more than meets the eye.
“It’s a fun sport in which there are a lot of challenges,” Twohig says. “It looks easy to a lot of people, like you just toss a rock down there. But when you’re throwing a 45-pound rock, making it curl 6 or more feet, it’s like you’re playing chess on ice. You have to be athletic to do it.”
That does not mean the club discourages new people from trying the sport. In fact, Aponte says it is simple to pick up the rules and initial strategies, but there is still a lot to learn.
“You can learn the basics of it pretty quickly, but also the precision and perfection part come into play for those who are a lot better and play really competitively,” she says.
Folks of all ages and abilities can curl, and the club draws people from around the state.
“It’s something you can do at any age, any physical level, and we even have a few wheelchair curlers as well, so it’s adaptive for everyone,” she says.
For some, curling provides more of a workout than might be expected, as sliding back and forth on ice repeatedly, for hours straight, can rack up a significant amount of movement.
“When I wear my Fitbit, on a good game I’ll take almost 8,000 steps, so you’re burning a lot of calories too, even though it looks like you’re maybe just walking around,” Twohig says.
Besides exercise, the Coyotes Curling Club fosters plenty of personal relationships that extend off the ice. The club draws a wide variety of people, even Olympians in the offseason, according to Twohig.
Coyotes Curling Club, 2202 W. Medtronic Way, Tempe, 480.447.4559, coyotescurling.com.