Winkler Curling Club president Brent Haney welcomes Rob Swan to Winkler on Nov. 15 as part of his Curling Across the Nation tour. (LAUREN MACGILL, Winkler Times)
Rob Swan visited Winkler Curling Club on Nov. 15 as part of his annual quest to curl 100 games in 100 different rinks.
“I set out two rules,” Swan said. “I never repeat a curling facility, and it has to be a six-end game to qualify as a legal game.”
Swan has only broken that rule once at the Cityview Curling Club in Ottawa. They tore down their old rink to put up a new one, and Swan played at both.
Curling Across the Nation started in Oct. 2014 as a small fundraiser for Swan’s home curling club in New Brunswick and has since taken on a life of its own. “For me, Curling Across the Nation is about me, a club curler, trying to prove that everybody has the opportunity to take up this sport and enjoy it for life,” he said.
Swan said it has turned into a world-wide promotion of the sport. “I have followers from 42 different countries,” he said. “They want to see what curling is all about, not only here but every place I travel.”
Last year, Swan set a world record for curling in 10 different countries in 11 days. He applied to Guinness to have the feat accepted as a record partially to get curling into the record book.
To set the record, Swan started in Germany before heading to Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada and finished in the United States.
“It was quick,” he said. “This has taken me to places I never thought I’d visit.”
Since its inception, Swan has curled in over 270 different facilities.
“Sometimes it is absolutely exhausting,” Swan said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. It is pure enjoyment coming out and meeting great people like here in Winkler. I have fun everywhere I go.”
Swan said the community response has been overwhelmingly positive. He came out to watch the Winkler junior curlers prior to his own game. “It was a pleasant surprise that there are so many junior curlers here,” he said. “I’ve been in curling facilities where you have less membership in the whole facility than what you guys have as juniors.”
Swan has been curling most of his life. “This sport is unlike any other sport,” he said. “It allows so much of Canadian society to take part.”
Swan said he has curled with just about every group and demographic in curling, including juniors, masters, women, LGBT+ groups. “There is not one aspect of society that cannot take part in the sport in their communities,” he said. “You won’t find that in any other sport.”
Swan said the sport is growing, but Canada could be working harder to promote the sport. “Outside of Canada curling is growing like crazy,” he said. “Because of the Olympics, everybody wants that Olympic gold. Canada, I feel, wants to sit on their laurels like we have curling in this country, we don’t need to go much further because we have the gold medals right now. In a few years I think it will be hard for Canada to get a gold medal because every country out there is paying their curlers to curl full-time. Ours have to work full-time just to curl.”
Even on the municipal level, Swan said support for the sport is lacking. “I fault the municipal and provincial governments for not backing it,” he said. “I think I’ve earned that right because I’ve seen it out there. Here you have a four sheet facility that is in great shape. When I drove in on the main road, I had to ask at the hotel where the curling facility was. It deserves a little rock on the side with an arrow pointing toward the facility. You see that for golf courses and hockey rinks.”
Swan pointed out that curling viewership is second only to hockey. “Governments need to get on the bandwagon and start promoting it,” he said. “It should be in every school because not every kid wants to play the other ice sport. This gives them an avenue to bring out there individuality easily.”
“You have curling facilities in this country that are closing,” he added. “That shouldn’t be. It’s an Olympic sport. We’re closing them, and that’s a sin.”
So far this season, Swan estimates he has already visited 40 rinks. After Winkler, Swan was heading to Fargo, Fort Frances, Keewatin, Brandon, and Grand Forks.
“It’s a busy little hopscotch all over the place,” Swan said.
Swan has five clubs left to visit in New Brunswick and 13 in Nova Scotia. He plans to head into southern Ontario and northern Alberta. In March he’ll be in Saskatchewan to take in the Briar.
“In April I might take two weeks off and sit on my butt at home,” Swan joked.
Swan and his curling journey can be found at curlingacrossthenation.com, on Facebook at Curling Across the Nation and on Twitter @curlthenation.