Keep your eye on the “Bunny”

Welcome to the slippery world of curling, a sport that is as old as it is fascinating. Ice or asphalt curling offers a unique blend of precision, strategic thinking and teamwork. But what makes the sport so special and why is it enjoying growing popularity beyond its traditional borders of Austria, southern Germany, South Tyrol and Switzerland? And what's the deal with the "Haserl" (bunny), which you should always keep an eye on?

Curling has its roots in medieval Europe, where it was initially used as a pastime during the cold winter months. The first precursors are thought to have originated in Scandinavia in the 13th century. The basic idea? To push or throw a heavy object as close as possible to a target area - this has not changed to this day. Over time, it developed into an organised sport with fixed rules and equipment, and the first clubs were founded before 1900. One form of curling, as we know it today, is depicted in a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder from 1565. While great importance is attached to the traditional aspects of curling in Austria, the sport is also open to modern influences. The equipment and techniques are constantly evolving, and efforts are being made to make the sport attractive to younger generations. At the same time, care is taken to preserve the traditional character and values of curling.

Even back then, when curling was invented, its advantages were probably appreciated: the sport is accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Even if the stick doesn't glide towards the "bunny" as planned on the first attempt at a shot, but instead just glides along and then tips over, it's still fun (at least in my experience). The simple equipment and easy-to-understand rules also make it an ideal sport for families and friends. In Radstadt, many of our clubs such as the veterans, the town band and the fire brigade play in the club tournament, which is organised by a different club every year. In addition to the fun of the game and the cosy get-together, the focus is also on the competition, as the winners receive a trophy and other prizes. The club tournament also shows that asphalt curling is not just a sport for older people, but that many "youngsters" are also involved in the various teams.
The annual veterans tournament between the "Taurachtalers" and the "Stadtlers", where the inhabitants of the Taurach valley in the direction of Untertauern compete against the inhabitants of Radstadt town centre, is also a hotly contested competition, which is not only a great competition for the players, but also a lot of fun for spectators.

As you've probably already noticed in my text, you don't necessarily need an ice rink for traditional curling - in summer you can also play on a flat asphalt track or an artificial track.

But what do you need for Austrian curling? The basic equipment is relatively simple: a curling stick and the "Haserl"(bunny), which is the approximately 10 x 10 cm target to which the stick must be shot as close as possible. The "Haserl" is also known elsewhere as the "Daube". If a stick moves this point, there is automatically a new target, which makes the game exciting. The stick itself consists of a handle, a stick body and a sole, which is adapted to the surface (ice or tarmac). Plastic soles are used for tarmac and rubber soles for winter. These are available in different degrees of hardness, which lead to different friction values on the surface and can be chosen by the players themselves. The sticks can vary in weight from around 2.5 kilos to almost 4 kilos and are often still traditionally made of wood. The basic aim of the game is, as already mentioned, to shoot the ice stick as close as possible to the rabbit. The team or player with the stick closest to the target scores points. Games can also be played for time or up to a certain number of points, which provides more dynamism and excitement. Basically, two teams play against each other, which is called a "sweep", the two teams have to play against each other three times, which is called three "sweeps" in stick shooters' parlance.

Experienced curlers develop a special feel for the stick through regular play and can shoot it precisely where they want it to go, regardless of whether they take the swing with them or shoot from a standing position and stop. My colleague Selina is a very skilful curler. While my ice stick is tumbling along on the ice, she manages to shoot hers to within a few millimetres of the bunny - no wonder, as she comes from a family where most of the members are members of the local ice curling club. The ice skating club is dedicated to the sport of curling and competes very successfully in tournaments against other clubs from the region. The members also endeavour to introduce the sport to schoolchildren and other interested parties. In the winter months, the Radstadt Curling Club offers curling on the curling rinks in Radstadt on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 10 or more people, where you can not only try your hand at curling, but also learn a few tricks from the pros. Anyone who would like to watch a tournament is cordially invited, admission is free and the curlers look forward to many spectators.
Curling is a sport that brings people together, offers challenges and, above all, is a lot of fun. Whether you're looking for a new winter activity or just want to have a good time with friends or family, curling is definitely worth a try. We hope this insight into curling has piqued your interest. Maybe we'll see you at the Radstadt ice rink? Pack your curling stick or hire one and get ready for some unforgettable moments on the ice!

Bildnachweis: Christian Hochwimmer, Radstadt Tourismus