In the provincial Viterra Men’s Curling Championship, specially crafted rocks zip down superbly pebbled sheets of ice. Take-out weight collisions reverberate throughout Tundra Oil & Gas Place arena, while other rocks sidle up to the button, some glide silently around behind the opponent’s stone amidst calls to sweep.
The curling rocks you are seeing in the Viterra Championship are imported to Virden from CurlManitoba. Along with a superior ice surface installed by Jet Ice technician Greg Ewasko, the curling rocks matter a lot.
“I’m the only one who gets to touch them”
Ewasko explains the reason for such care, “Next to water quality, the rock is probably the next most important part of the curling event. Our rocks are Blue Trefor granite … the best curling rock you can possibly play with.”
Where uniformity is important on championship ice, each of these stones weighs roughly 41 pounds, all within half an ounce to an ounce of each other. They fall mid-way within the legal parameters of 35 to 44 pounds.
Ewasko says Manitoba rocks are world renowned and in the past, have been used at many Briers and world championships.
But no more. Curling Canada now has their own rocks. While we think of stone as indestructible, that’s not the case. Think of the miles a curling rock slides and the number of bumps each rock receives. The stones can loose their proper shape.
Ewasko not only oversees the ice surface, but he works his magic in preparing the rocks, special sandpapering, to put the curl in curling.
“Our rocks got tired from too many world championship games. We just basically use them in Manitoba now, which is fine with me. I’m the only one that gets to touch them and work with them,” says the master ice-maker.
The granite itself is becoming more precious and the process for crafting curling rocks is a guarded art.
“There are only a few places in the world that make curling rocks.”
One is the Trefor Granite Quarry in Wales. The other place is the Island of Ailsa Craig, off the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.
Ewasko says much of the granite that they harvest from that island is used for counter tops, with just one-third of the granite harvest made into curling rocks.
“Now, the World Curling Federation is only harvesting whatever they have blasted in the past 100 years, and using that. They cannot blast anymore.” Ewasko adds, “That’s basically another 100 years of curling.”