2006-06-23 / Sports
Curling takes off in the Conejo
"I just couldn't understand that the closest place to play curling was either in San Francisco or Scottsdale, Ariz.," curling league President Tom Hemenway said. "A group of us online decided after the 2006 Winter Olympics to try and put a summer league together in the area.
"We had an open house on May 13, and with the good response, we decided the best central location to have the league was here in Simi."
Hemenway has played the sport for about 15 years and brings the equipment to the arena from his Pomona home every week.
"I have played this sport with my brothers for a long time," Hemenway said. "It's a great sport and a mellow way to stay cool."
The league runs every Saturday night from 7:30 to 10 p.m. and has drawn experienced players and beginners; men and women of all ages.
"We can teach you how to play in only about 20 minutes," Sophie Saraicescu said. "You won't be the world's best right away but you'll be able understand it and have fun."
Some of those new players include 15-year-old Royal High school student Kyle Quiroz and Moorpark College sophomore Ryan Shanley.
"I used to play a video game for the sport a lot back in 1998 and it looked fun then," Shanley said. "After watching it on the Olympics, I thought I would check the Internet for a league around here and give it a shot. It's more addictive than I thought it would be."
The sport's extra airtime during the Olympics also sparked more interest. Before being reinstated as an Olympic sport in 1998, curling had not been a sanctioned event since 1924.
"I watched it on television during the Olympics and it looked pretty fun, so my sister and I came to the open house," Quiroz said. "It's not really tiring or popular out here, but I just wanted to try something different. Maybe I can be good at this."
Other experienced players are just glad there is actually a league in the area.
"I'm from Nova Scotia where the sport is more popular and I have played for about 14 years," Mike Steeves said. "This is so awesome of Tom Hemenway to organize this league for us."
"I'm stoked that there is a league here finally to play in," longtime Simi Valley resident Charlie Engen said. "After the 2006 Winter Games, I read somewhere that the curling percentage in the area went up 50 percent. I instantly looked up Southern California curling on Yahoo! and I came up with this league. It's really a misunderstood sport when you see it on television."
One thing that is understood about the sport is how good the sportsmanship is. Curling is known to be one of the better mannered sports.
"Every game starts and ends with a handshake," Steeves said.
"Secretly inside you might be rooting for someone to miss a shot, but never out loud," Steeves said. "Also, it's very friendly as it's usually known that the winner buys the loser a drink after the games are finished and then the loser returns the favor."
The summer league runs through Aug. 19, but Hemenway said he's optimistic about getting an extension and having a league in the fall.
"When we are setting up, we usually have hockey players and ice skaters on the other rink check us out and ask what we are doing," Hemenway said.
"They generally seem interested. A couple hockey players have actually come out to play," he said. "Last week we had about 25 people show up and this week it looks to be around 20, so the response so far has been good."