Monday, February 17, 2014


Our state is often thought of by many athletes as Winter's Playground. Some of the best in-country skiing this side of the Mississippi is found here. Our snowmobile trails safely guide riders from Kittery to Canada, our weekends offer frozen fishing derbies held on our seemingly countless lakes and ponds, and our state hosts the one and only US National Toboggan Championship. If that wasn't enough, one can even travel to Belfast, Maine - to the only place in the state that lets people try their hand at the sport of curlingDNA Photography ventured up to Belfast  to play the sport which can best be described as a cross between horseshoes and shuffleboard on ice. While there we met up with curling volunteers Jeff Wiley and his wife Wendy, who have been assisting the Belfast Curling Club since 2010.

The sport of curling has roots dating back to medieval Scotland. It expanded to North American when Scottish immigrants brought it to Canada. Skip forward a century or so to 1959. This was the inaugural year of the Belfast Curling Club.
When the club first opened it only had outdoor sheets of ice. In 1962 the two-sheet ice house was razed to make way for the structure that is in place today. The facility currently houses three sheets of ice, a huge overhead viewing area, a 100-person dance hall, and a bar. The staff is made up entirely of volunteers. Volunteers that run the every day functions of the building in addition to offering up their equipment and time to train newcomers.
Jeff, a 23-year Army veteran, was last stationed in Germany when his family decided that Belfast was going to be their next home. Jeff made his wife promise that if they moved to Maine that they both would take up the sport of curling. She agreed.
Now the two of them volunteer their time at the club. All the volunteers are asked to give 10 hours of service time to the club each season. This helps keeps costs down to a minimum. Club membership dues, rentals and bonspiel events generate the majority of the club's operating revenue.
"Monday through Friday we have leagues for the members," Wiley said. "Over the weekend we have monthly in-house bonspiels for club members. We also have several open bonspiels that run all weekend with teams coming from all over the US and Canada."
Over the last three years the club has sponsored a College Crash Spiel in which it hosts clubs from all around New England. College such as MIT, Harvard, Colgate, Bates, Unity, UMO, Bowdoin, Colby and Husson have gathered in their facility to complete.
The sport brings a variety of people to the facility and Jeff loves that most about the game. He enjoys the different walks of life that find interest in the sport and then come to his team to learn more about it. He said he first discovered the sport on television and from there his fascination with it grew for a few years. 
The game is very strategic and has a number of variables that can change the power of the game at any given moment. The second and third throwers are tasked with listening to the skip's direction in hopes to strengthen the team's chance of scoring points while obstructing the other team's chance to score. Throwing second and third is Jeff's preferred role.
When not competing, Jeff, Wendy and the rest of the Belfast Curling Club volunteers do their part to make sure that all who visit them enjoy their time on the ice and hopefully leave with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the game.   
The curling season goes from November to March, at which at the end of the season the ice is melted. These volunteers are currently in need of monetary assistance. They have been using the same technology; the same machinery to generate ice every year since the club's start. The equipment has been maintained, restored and segmentally repaired over the years. But the equipment is tired and custom-fabrication has run its course. The cost of a new system is in the ballpark of $350,000. When more information is made available about the fundraiser we will post it here.
Make sure to call ahead for rental times for their schedule does book fast. As for what to bring, Jeff recommends bring warm but comfortable clothes. All of the equipment needed is there for the borrowing - or you can buy your own stones. But be warned these rocks are not cheap and the granite is hard to come by. In fact the granite used to make the stones for the Winter Olympics has its own uninhabited island off the Scottish coastline.