From curlers throwing their first stone all the way up to Olympic-level competitors, the Duluth Curling Club houses a diverse yet united group of Curling enthusiasts. With a history stretching back all the way to the 1890s, the curling club has been a Duluth landmark for more than a century.
Some come for the beer, others come for the competition, but one thing is unanimous, all are welcome here at the club. This is something that I felt instantly when I met the curling club general manager Dick Wicklund at the ticket booth, who was eager to show me the latest hardware earned by some of Duluth's own.
“Do you see that banner right there?” Wicklund said, signaling to the table beside me. "Three of our members won the Woman’s Club National Championship this year, another banner to hang up.”
Another banner among what seems like hundreds rests above eight curling lanes where anyone is welcome to try their hand at the sport. Overlooking the eight lanes is a bar comprised of parched curlers, college kids, and everyone in between depending on what time you’re there.
Like any bar, the night rush brings in quite a few college students and a lot of older regulars who have been calling the curling club their go to spot for years. Others are just becoming acquainted with the club after a couple weeks of UMD.
“Going in there and seeing all the older regulars at the bar was a little intimidating, but sitting down and talking to them made me realize how welcoming they are, and how passionate they are for their sport," said UMD junior and intramural curler Kevin Rennake.
No one is a bigger regular than the one who runs the ship, Dick Wicklund.
Dick began curling at the club in 1982 and has been working there for the better part of 10 years.
Responsible for every tournament that goes on at the club, Wicklund stays very busy manning a ship that has been afloat since its foundation in 1891.
I caught up to Wicklund constructing the latest 184 senior men’s division tournament, and you can bet he will be there for it. No one goes on the ice without first getting checked in with Wicklund and of course shooting the shit a little beforehand.
“Curling is a lifelong sport for a lot of people. I’ve known many of these people since I first curled here in ’82,” Wicklund said. “We have 10 year old kids curling for their first time and 85-year-old seniors who have been here almost since the place opened.”
With the broad range of curlers coming in to the club, those curious about the sport may be deterred thinking that it’s only for experienced members.
Many first time curlers need a few (10 in my case) throws to become used to how the stone slides across the ice. Looking bad your first time is inevitable, but shouldn’t deter anyone from curling for the first time. This is something Wicklund wanted to set the record straight about.
“We welcome beginners, amateurs, and world class curlers to our club and that’s something we have always been about. Curling is for everybody and no one should be afraid to give it a try because they’re afraid to fail or look bad they’re first time doing it,” said Wicklund.
Getting the right motion of how to balance a 40 pound stone in one hand, a broom in another, all while sliding and aiming the stone toward your target is not something picked up right away. Someone who can relate to this struggle is Kevin, who will be competing in his intramural league playoffs soon.
From an unsure beginner who’s only curling experience was watching it on TV, competing in a league championship is an enormous shift for Kevin. A shift that he couldn’t be happier he made.
“Going into this I didn’t know the first thing about curling other than what I had seen on the Olympics in past years,” said Kevin. “After playing a few times and getting better as I go along has made curling night the highlight of my week. I'm really looking forward to playoffs.”
From senior league championships consisting of 85 year old curlers, to 10 year old kids curling for the first time with their dad, the curling club has something for everyone. Something you will feel instantly when you step out on that ice for the first time, or the thousandth time like Dick.
Togetherness, competition, and of course a little beer are all what makes the Club a cornerstone in Duluth.