Hi's Eye

Plainfield Curling Club: a hidden New Jersey gem

Jessica Shih, Iris Commentary Editor

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SOUTH PLAINFIELD—Have you ever turned on the TV during the Winter Olympics with the expectation of seeing skiers, only to watch people battling over a moving rock by aggressively sweeping down a strip of ice with brooms? Ever looked at the screen and thought, “I have no idea what’s happening, but I can totally do whatever they’re doing?”
Wonder no longer—the Plainfield Curling Club can help turn your imagination into reality.
If not for the “Plainfield Curling Club” lettering across its front, this venue along an industrial back road in South Plainfield could pass as a miniature warehouse. But step through the front door and you’re greeted with a blast of warm air and a friendly welcome by curlers in the club’s gathering room.
Look around you and there’s a kitchen, minibar, round tables, lounge area and locker rooms. Look straight ahead, and behind a glass partition lie two strips of ice, each 150 feet long and 14 feet wide. Look up and you see a hefty collection of trophies and photos, plus monitors showing real-time footage of any ongoing games.
From October to April, the club is home to curlers from all around the tri-state area, including WHS Math Teacher Matt Ozol.
“As someone who’s new to curling, I see myself improving every week,” Ozol said. “Sure, I’ve fallen on the ice several times, but I still enjoy it. After all, no two games are the same. There’s a lot of unpredictable variables at play since it’s basically throwing a heavy stone onto ice. Anything can happen in those few seconds.”
Since the building’s establishment in 1967, this sole New Jersey curling facility has helped to increase awareness of the sport in the U.S. But according to curler and former Hi’s Eye writer Dean Roth, the true gateway that allowed Americans to discover curling was the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Curler Justin Bruno is one such example.
“I’ve been curling for seven years,” he said. “I’d seen curling on TV for years and thought it looked interesting, so after the Vancouver Olympics, I Googled, ‘Curling in N.J.’ Only this club came up, so I came down. There was a ‘Curling Experience’ session where you can learn how to throw stones. I tried it, thought it was fun and kept coming back.”
While curling gets complex with rules and strategies, here’s the gist: Two teams of four players each slide a 42-pound granite stone down the ice strip to the area marked by a target symbol, called the house. To keep the stone moving, players sweep the ice in front of it to briefly smoothen the surface and provide the stone a straighter path of travel. To score, their stone must be as close to the target’s center, or button, as possible.
But curling is more than a sport. It’s an all-inclusive culture of a group of unlikely people uniting under a common interest.
For instance, outside of curling, Roth runs a small manufacturing company. Bruno works in retail. Ozol teaches high school math. And curler Colleen Curran co-owns a teleprompter company with her husband, who is also a curler. Last year, the couple moved from North Jersey to a house 15 minutes from the club in order to be closer to the venue itself and the people within it.
“[What I enjoy most about curling is] the camaraderie,” Curran said. “When I engage in really good conversation with members, I lose track of time. Next thing I know, it’s one o’clock in the morning and nobody is here. And that’s when I think, ‘Oh, maybe I should go home.’ ”
Roth added, “The winning team always buys the first round of drinks for the losing team. But here, what happens during the game isn’t as important as what happens after. Winning and losing doesn’t matter as much as getting to know the club members over a drink or two.”
So if you’re looking to quell your imagination, stop by the club for a speed lesson and maybe even a friendly game. And of course, don’t forget to stay after. You’ll leave the Plainfield Curling Club that day knowing a thing or two about curling—and the members, as well.
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