Bonspiel - 1 (1)

Imagine an ice rink. Then put 20-ft-long rubber non-skid mats on the ice. At the end of the mats, place an inflated truck-tire inner-tube fastened to a large plastic dish just a bit larger than the inner-tube.

Bonspiel - 1

Now, picture yourself standing at one end of the mat, then racing to the other end, and launching yourself stomach-down onto the inner-tube, and sliding across the ice toward a bull’s-eye target on the far end.

That, in a nutshell, is human bonspiel (or human curling).

Bonspiel - 1 (3)

Tom and I and two others represented the U.S. Department of Commerce/U.S. Consulate at the Calgary Corporate Challenge Human Bonspiel on Feb. 2. We were joined by our neighbor Rob and by one of Tom’s subject-area specialists, Connie (who joined at the last minute when our fourth teammate had to bow out due to hip injury). Except for Connie, everyone on our team was at least 20 years, if not 30 years, older than most of the other competitors. We wore our gray hair as a badge of honor!

None of us had ever done human curling before, but it was easy to learn (once you knew not to let your chin hit the inner-tube, and not to bounce off and over the inner-tube). Basically, we ran as fast as we could down the mat and then dove onto the tube, as though shallow diving off the edge of a pool. Each of us on our team had seven practice runs, followed by three competitive heats, with three slides per person in each heat.

The idea was to stop closest to the bull’s eye. Distance from the bull’s eye was measured, and the best runs were totaled for each team.

“We who are about to slide, salute you!”

The first heat was pretty miserable, with few teams making it to the bull’s eye. Then, one of the organizers noticed that the lanes hadn’t been “pebbled,” and a fella went out with a water shaker and sprinkled water on all of the lanes. This formed frozen pebbles on the ice, which meant that the disks traveled across the top of the pebbles, greatly increasing speed. Wow, what a difference! We flew across the ice after that!

In total, there were ten teams that day (several days of competition). Our team, Slide and the Family Stone, made it to the final round (4th of five teams to advance), but consistently overshot the mark and ended up 4th of five teams in the final.

Ah well, there is always next year!