Feature: World Curling Championship bringing fans closer together

  • Photo: WCF / Richard Gray

Curling does more than entertain its fans – it unites them

In 1976, Ray Field of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada had his first experience of curling. Since then, he has curled all over the world, and continues to spread his love for the sport with others.

“I just happened to be looking at a notice board at work, and this was back in 1976, and I saw this notice on curling,” Field, says, “I asked the fellow beside me, what’s this? He said, oh you don’t know? Why don’t you try it?”

His co-worker encouraged Field to join him, and he was put down as a alternate. A week later, he was told he had made the team. From that point on, he was hooked.

Like Field, there are countless curling fans across the world that just can’t get enough of the sport.

Each year, curling fans from across the world flock to the World Curling Championships not only to take in the action, but to reunite with old friends.

Two organisations help make this happen – The Pond Hopper Club, which is run by Sandy Jenkins, and the Grand Transoceanic Match (GTM), that is now organised by Ray Field.

The Pond Hopper Club consists of curling fans and members that have crossed the Atlantic or Pacific, to attend a world curling championship. Originating in 1971, the Pond Hopper Club consists of devoted members who travel the world to cheer on their favorite teams.

The Grand Transoceanic Match organises a curling match between fans, which sees North America compete against the rest of the world. The preference is to mix players in order to meet others from different countries and cities.

Like Field, Jenkins has been in love with curling for some time now,

“Fifteen years ago my husband and I came to our first world curling event and that was in Bismarck, North Dakota, USA and we fell in love. We decided that was going to be our thing to do and every year for 15 years we do that.”

As the administrator for the Pond Hopper Club, she helps bring curling fans together.

Members meet in the country hosting the event, and spend the week catching up and taking in the curling action. Each year, the club host’s an awards dinner and dance for pond hoppers.

This year - in Basel, Switzerland – marks the club’s 45th anniversary, with the dinner being held on Wednesday 6 April.

“Those parties over the years have been fantastic. We have been to every one. Each one is different and we try to find a unique venue that is easy for the Pond Hoppers to get to. It’s a really good group of people,” says Jenkins.

She adds that each year, the interest continues to grow. The club suggests that there are approximately 12,000 Pond Hopper members with most members flocking from Canada, Scotland and the United States.

“Every year we register new people,” continued Jenkins. “I’ve registered about 36 new Pond Hoppers so far at this event. We have about 400 active members that have attended one or more world curling championships over the past five years.”

Ray Field first got involved with GTM in 1995, when the organisation made its way to his hometown of Victoria, Canada.

“My first involvement with the GTM was in 1995 when it was in Victoria, B.C. Nobody was thinking about carrying on the GTM at that time so I picked it up and said why aren’t we doing it? So I took it on, and I’ve carried on with it since then,” he says.

The goal of GTM is to bring curling fans together during world class events by hosting a friendly curling game. “Generally it’s easy going, its another attraction for the fans. It gives them a little activity, and lets them meet the other curling fans from around the world,” he says.

But for Ray, the most rewarding aspect of curling and GTM is what it brings him personally. “Friendship and fellowship,” he says. “After the game, you sit down, you don’t have to drink beer and you don’t have to have whiskey, just a cup of tea or a glass of pop. That’s all you need.”

As for Jenkins, as her passion for the sport continues to grow, she believes that what makes the sport so special is how welcoming fans are of one another. “We come from all different countries and most often you’re supporting the team from your own country, but curling fans are special. Most curling fans will acknowledge good shots no matter who makes them even when it’s the team that your country is playing against. I think that’s pretty unique in the world of sports.”

by Marilyn Santucci, Journalism Sport Media Trainee