The teams on sheet four left the ice a few minutes before I was due to start on sheet five. I went out onto the ice, needing to take a few slides in my new shoes.
I was highly aware of the forty or so people behind the glass behind me as I got into the hack, even though I generally don't notice people in the warm room during games. Nothing I could do but hope they weren't paying attention. They probably weren't. It's not like I stare at everyone I see practicing. And it certainly wasn't like anyone ever mocks me however bad I look.
I drew a breath and slid, fully expecting to do something embarrassing and just hoping it wouldn't also be something painful.
But... It was smooth and steady. At least, by my standards. It wasn't the gliding you see if you watch someone curl on TV, but it was a lot better than the wobbling I was doing in week one.
I took another slide, feeling more stable than ever before. Thank the Ice Gods. My delivery's still a long way from perfect and it started to get worse as I got more tired, but it seems like I'm on a good track to improvement.
So, I love my news shoes. If anyone reading this is trying to decide if they want to curl in real curling shoes or just put a slip-on slider over a street shoe, I vote for the curling shoes. These are the cheapest shoes my club store carries and they are still worlds better than my slip-on. Plus I didn't have to worry about making sure my slider made it to the right side of the ice at the end of the end. Total win!
A few people have asked me questions about curling shoes and some have asked to see them. So, here are some photos.
As you can see, they look a lot like sneakers, just with funny soles.
Here's the bottom of the left shoe, first with the gripper over the slider and then with just the slider. As you can see, the gripper slips over the shoe and covers the lovely teflon up. When I sweep, I wear the gripper. Curlers with more experience and better balance don't have to do this, but I like not falling.
Only the left foot has a slider. This is why it was such a major deal for me to realize minutes before the first game of the season that I had neither balance nor strength in my left leg and why I've spent the last fortnight doing funny looking one-legged excercises.
Here are the right foot grippers...
In contrast to the snazzy new shoes, here's the set up I used to have. Chuck Taylors with slip-on slider and grippers.
You can see in the next photo that the slider doesn't fit over the shoe quite right. This is because my shoe size is right at the edge of medium and large. The teflon's thinner, which makes the slider less efficient, and it always felt too flexible and wobbly.
The Chucks are cute though and I'm happy to be able to wear them outside now. :)
So is there anything else you've always wondered about curling shoes that I didn't cover? Don't be afraid to ask!
One of my friends/teammates/beta readers (yeah, she's full of awesome) commented on my Facebook link to this post about the whole sweeping with a slider concept. She pointed out that while you do see championship-level men doing it, it is incredibly rare to see even a world-class female competitor doing it.
The reason is simple now that it's been pointed out to me. You get less power in your sleeping if you're sweeping with a slider. My friend says that she knows from Mixed Doubles experience (Mixed Doubles being a curling variant were you have to sweep with a slider because you're sweeping the rock you just threw) that she loses three or more feet of potential gain when she slide-sweeps. Three feet can easily be the difference between a great shot and a missed opportunity.
People with greater strength may be able to trade the extra distance in for the precision of weight judgement you gain from sliding at the same rate as the rock, so an advanced men's team can absolutely do it without hurting themselves. However, I don't see it being something that would ever be in my interest to do. Unless, of course, I one day decide to try Mixed doubles. :)