Every Thursday night from 9 to 11 p.m., curious and excited Bowdoin students gather on the ice rink at Sidney J. Watson Arena to compete in a sport like golf, to play a game like chess and to share an experience like hanging out with your closest friends. The sport? Curling.
The student-led Bowdoin curling team was established in 2010 and competes in tournaments across the country. Just last week, the team won the C-division event final at a tournament hosted at Yale University. Like at every tournament, the team brought along new curlers for whom it was their first time at a tournament. The Polar Bears finished 1–3 on the weekend and are continuing to plug along on the road to Nationals.
While the sport might not be widely understood, captain Gavin Sychterz ’25 says there are other experiences that can help a first-time player have a leg up. Flexibility, strategy and attention detail are important strategies for starters.
“I bet someone who’s really good at chess would be good at curling, because a lot of it is this total mind game between you and the other team. It’s actually an incredibly strategic game, which I was very surprised about. I mean, there’s just a lot of different types of stones you can place,” Sychterz said.
Sychterz and captain Evan Chapman ’25 had never curled before coming to campus. Now, they make up two-fifths of the club’s leaders, also known as guard stones, and the pair is in charge of teaching and leading new curlers each week.
“This is the most low stress, no pressure environment ever. I remember my first year when I went to my first launch. I felt very relaxed, like it was an environment where I could miss. It didn’t really matter. It was a lot of fun. I will say that, the group of curlers that we have here is also just full of really great people,” Sychterz said.
This tight knit community, according to Sychterz, has been a universal element among curling teams Bowdoin has encountered. At last year’s Nationals in Fargo, N.D., the team saw this community for themselves firsthand.
“One really fun thing is that whenever you go to all these meets, curlers are, I think, personally some of the nicest people ever, because I mean, it’s curling. I feel like it doesn’t attract people who aren’t nice. Whenever you go to these meets, you’ll end up just talking to other teams and players. It’s a really good environment,” Sychterz said.
One myth about curling is that there is a lot of standing around. Chapman says the sport is quite the opposite.
“It’s an amazing workout. We were measuring at one game, and [we burned] close to 1000 calories in a two hour span,” Chapman said. “It’s really intensive.”
The team is on the road to Nationals again this year, but that isn’t Chapman’s main focus. Instead, he is trying to forge a community and grow the club’s enrollment, which has taken a hit since the pandemic.
“My goal is to really make sure that at least one person feels more comfortable, like they belong, they have a home and to grow curling as a sport. It’s a pretty niche sport, obviously,” Chapman said. “[We want] to be able to get it to as many people as possible, grow it out … and just leave a good lasting reputation for Bowdoin moving forward.”
The curling team will return to the ice next weekend in Utica, N.Y.