- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) - You probably saw it during the recent Winter Olympics. It was nothing if not intriguing.

Colorfully dressed men and women standing on a long, narrow sheet of ice. Someone sliding across the ice with some sort of fat stone. Two people vigorously sweeping the ice in front of said stone. And someone at the end behind a target painted on the ice yelling seemingly nonsensical things like “Hurry hard.”

Curling has been around since the 16th century, when it was first played in Scotland. Scottish immigrants brought the game to North America, specifically Canada, in the 19th century, and it’s been hugely popular with our northern neighbors ever since.

But the sport wasn’t an official Olympic event until 1998, and when the winter games are held every four years, there’s a re-surgence in interest among Americans.

It was the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver when Jared Belsher’s interest was first sparked for “The Roaring Game” - a nickname for the game due to the sound the stones make gliding across the ice.

“I saw it on the Vancouver Olympics and said, ‘What is this? This is awesome,’” Belsher said.

Four years later, Belsher is the president of the Boise Curling Club, which hosted a “Learn to Curl” class Friday and Saturday to teach Treasure Valley residents how to play the sport referred to as “Chess on ice” because of the strategy involved.

The club was founded in 2004, and Belsher, who joined in 2010 after attending a Learn to Curl class, said it has grown every year since. It’s especially grown every four years as the Winter Olympics broadcasts the game to hundreds of millions.

“There’s always a big surge around the Olympics . we are having five classes, and there is a waiting list of people who want to learn. It’s been great,” Belsher said.

Belsher said the classes teach people the basics of what can be a complicated sport.

Belsher said he’s never heard a negative comment from people who have taken the class and many decide to join the league after getting a taste of the sport.

“It’s great because anyone can do it,” Belsher said. “It’s definitely a great family sport.”

Belsher said the club has a three-week league that has matches on Friday nights starting this week. They are also going to have a six-week beginners league on Thursday nights starting March 27.

In addition to the leagues, Belsher said the Boise Curling Club hosts an outdoor bonspiel, a curling tournament, every January in Stanley - one of only a few outdoor bonspiels held in North America. The club also sends teams three or four times a year to bonspiels across the Northwest.

Belsher said most who join the league are beginners, just getting started in the sport, but there are some club members from Wisconsin and Minnesota who played as kids and are getting reacquainted with the sport.

There is currently a waiting list for the Learn to Curl classes, the next one being March 7, but Belsher said the club is probably going to add another class.

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