Alexander Nelson gripped a curling stone with one hand and a balance device with the other.
He got into position as if he were about to begin a sprint, lifted his backside and then gently pushed off with his right foot to glide on the ice.
As soon as he released the curling stone, it went awry.
The Penn State junior’s left foot slipped on the ice, causing him to take a tumble and roll on his back, sliding toward friend Armin Nayak, who joined him in the curling lesson.
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Even if Nelson was being coached by Gwen Krailo, an Olympic curling official and Penn State graduate, it’s a hard technique for anyone to pick up.
“I just keep trying to teach them ways to maintain their balance,” Krailo said. “Once you have that, then it’s easy to keep the stone in a straight line.”
Chris Brida invited the community to a “Learn to Curl” event at Pegula Ice Arena on Saturday as a way to help attract more people to the Centre County Curling Club.
After all, Brida is the only member.
Halfway through the session, Brida counted 149 people in attendance. And there was still a crowd of people waiting their turn, backed up from the varsity hockey rink to the entrance of the public rink.
“I was just hoping anyone would show up,” Brida said. “I’m pretty happy with the outcome.”
The idea to start a local club was inspired by Olympic curling when it aired in February.
“I was working at Zeno’s and everyone would come in and watch curling,” Brida said. “I’ve always been the kind of person that if I wanted something to get done, I’d do it, and wanted to make every effort to get a club going.”
He teamed up with management from both the Bryce Jordan Center and Pegula Ice Arena to organize an afternoon of free curling lessons taught by certified instructors.
Curling is played by two teams of four. The objective is to slide the 44-pound curling stone as close to the center of the target as possible. A group of team members “sweep” the ice to create friction and help guide the stone in a certain direction.
Still confused? Just think of it as bocce on ice, Brida said.
“I never thrown a stone until today,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun than people think.”
Phil Mack, a Penn State sophomore, has been curling for 12 years. He started as a child after a friend got him into the sport.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie that goes with the sport,” Mack, 19, of Philadelphia, said. “You just can’t be afraid to fall. But people usually get the hang of it quickly.”
His main job Saturday was to teach guests how to sweep the ice using a curling broom.
“You just want to get a feel of the speed of the stone and where it needs to go, but you have a team to help,” Mack said.
By next fall, Brida hopes to have two teams made of Penn State students and the public.
“It’s going to be a long process to get the ball rolling, but after today, I’m hopeful it will go in the right direction,” Brida said.