By Jeff Morris
Cooperstown is the home of baseball, Almonte’s James Naismith invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Montreal and Windsor, Nova Scotia both claim to be the birthplace of ice hockey.
But there is no doubt that Richmond is the birthplace of shufflecurl.
“I didn’t think that during the COVID lockdown I would invent a new game, but that’s how it worked out,” joked Terry Westrate.
The original plan was to make curling rocks and create a curling rink on the Jock River by Westrate’s home. He ran into roadblock after roadblock, but was happy with the end result.
“I was looking for something to do outside,” he said. “When winter came, it was too cold for the firepit, but I wanted to do something where we could get together and have something to do.”
Westrate went on Google to find out how to make curling rocks. He found a YouTube video from the Backyard Bros. and went to work. In December, he spent 16 nights making 16 curling stones.
“I only had a mould for one, so I made one every day,” he said. “But then we had a couple of setbacks.”
COVID restrictions that were put in place on Boxing Day, along with a couple of stretches of mild weather, put Westrate’s plans on ice. Or slush.
When the ice on the Jock River was ready, Westrate went out to test his homemade rocks.
“They wouldn’t slide,” he said. “I followed all the instructions and tried a few things, but I couldn’t get them to slide.”
Since curling shoes have a plastic slider on the soul, Westrate used the same principal and applied them to his homemade curling rocks.
“After that, the rocks slid beautifully, but they could only go straight,” he said. “They wouldn’t curl.”
And just how football evolved from rugby, shufflecurl evolved from curling.
“We couldn’t curl them like regular rocks, and none of us really felt like going down on one knee to curl them anyway,” he said. “So we decided to push them with brooms like in shuffleboard.” The lack of sweeping, he said, made it possible to hold onto a beverage with your other hand.
Westrate made his rink, which like making the rocks, had a learning curve.
“I didn’t want to shovel 160 feet of snow, so our rink is 80 feet long,” he said. “And Kool-Aid powder doesn’t work to colour the ice. I ended up using a water soluble kids paint.”
Even though the rocks would not curl, he said the ice on the river “would take the rocks in six or seven different directions,” adding an element of difficulty to the game. He also posted a note on Facebook that he was looking for old brooms that people wanted to get rid of. He went around the community and gathered all brooms, and the weekend of shufflecurl was about to take place.
For two weekends, three families gathered on the ice to enjoy the rink and the homemade curling rocks.
“The river is like a highway,” Westrate said. “There were walkers and snowmobilers and a lot of people. A lot of people stopped to watch us and ask us what we were doing. They thought it was great.”
The second weekend was complete with hot dogs and marshmallows cooked over an open fire outside under the bright sunshine. The Elders took down the Young Guns in a dramatic extra end final to win the first Shufflecurl Cup.
“We really had a lot of fun, and it was great to get outside and do something and enjoy the sunshine on the river,” he said. “We had three families out with our kids, and we are all in the same bubble.”
There is a long offseason until the 2022 shufflecurl season, and Westrate is not sure what advancements the game will make before then.
“I am just glad we all got to have some fun,” he said. “One of the women told me when we were done that it was the most fun she had all winter. That made it all worth while for me.”