The Guelph Curling club looked a lot like your typical club house for say a small local golf club or lawn bowls club with brown carpets and plastic chairs at round plastic dining tables catered by a small bar and kitchen serving basic fast food. However, at one end there were 8 lanes of ice out the viewing window.
Before getting on the ice we had our shoe soles picked free of stones like a horse getting it's feet cleaned. Meanwhile the ice was being prepared which was a combination of rolling and spraying to get a slightly rutted surface rather than and ice-rink sheen. We were put into teams of seven or eight and assigned a death lane of ice. To start with we just walked about on the ice and were surprised to find that it was barely slippy at all. That was until they introduced what I like to call "the death slipper." This was, what looked like, a Teflon insole that made your left foot glide along the ice like you were Torvell and Dean, or Bambi.
The basic technique for pushing off was using starting blocks, like those used in running and then lunging forward. Pushing off with your right foot against the block and then keeping your left foot on the death slipper and knee bent. To begin with we used the broom as a balance, which was difficult to start with and after falling straight on my knee after my first shot, it was painful. After a few tries we introduced the 45kg rocks from Ailsa Craig and it was actually a lot easier than using the broom.
The sport is called curling because you have to make the rock "curl" down the lane, about 2-3 full turns. You can aim the curl left or right by turning the stone slightly anticlockwise or clockwise ,respectively, while you push off. Your 'skipper/captain' will show you where to aim your rock to get the best shot, aiming to have your rock closest to the centre circle.
Sweeping is the other aspect of curling which is used to make the ice frictionless to make the stone travel further. It was so much hard work as you had to run ahead of the stone and brush frantically until your arms fall off. I didn't enjoy sweeping much but couldn't get the hang of both pushing at the right strength AND direction, but the instructor said I was promising! Watch out Rhona Martin! Curling was a lot harder than it looked and it turned out to be really fun and the volunteers from the club were very helpful and I'd definitely go again!
P.S. The next day I could barely walk on my right leg, it turns out pushing 45kg without stretching has consequences!