It takes a lot more than just frozen water to produce curling-grade ice.
For Manitoban Mark Shurek and his team of local volunteers, it meant three days of freezing, flooding, scraping, sweeping and pebbling the arena surface at Truro’s Rath Eastlink Community Centre ahead of this week’s Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Masters tournament.
“Curling ice has to be perfectly level. So how we get to that point is we flood until it’s level and then we fine-tune it with the scraper. Pebble, scrape, pebble, scrape until we get the ice shaped for the curling,” said Shurek. “Installing the curling ice usually takes three days with a crew; I have an assistant with me and we use a crew of local volunteers, about 15 guys.”
It is fairly easy to walk on finished curling ice, even wearing only normal street shoes. It is a far cry from slippery and sometimes uneven hockey ice, where a good sense of balance and pair of skates is vital.
The curling ice is pebbled by a volunteer spraying water on top of it, using a hose connected to a tank on their back. The pebbling process must be repeated after every curling game.
This means scraping off the old pebble layer, then putting down a new pebble base and top, followed by another round with the scraper. The final stage before a new game is ‘nipping the ice’ with the scraper and spreading out the snow.
Once the ice is re-pebbled, Shurek and his team of volunteers will run curling rocks along it to check that they can move at a consistent speed before a new game can begin.
“Pebbling the ice looks easy, you’re going backwards at a fairly good pace and you’re just moving your hand side to side. (The hose) is actually gravity-fed and that’s how we pebble the ice,” said Shurek.
As he spoke, his local volunteer team was busy sweeping and scraping the ice surface before the practice rounds on Oct. 23.
One such volunteer was Eric Johnson, finishing up with a broom on that day.
“We’re doing the ice right now, the final scrape, mop, sweep and then getting it ready for our practice round that starts at 12:30 p.m.,” said Johnson.
The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Masters tournament runs from Oct. 23 to 28 at in Truro. It will feature the world’s top 15 men’s and women’s teams. Among the players will be Colchester County players Karlee and Lindsey Burgess who play on the Kaitlyn Jones team.
Ahead of the tournament, Shurek praised the RECC’s staff and volunteers, saying that Truro was “a good community to work in.”