It can be tough to find fun, physical activities when the weather outside is cold and icy, as it was for much of this winter. And that can be especially true in rural communities where, often, there isn’t the infrastructure one would find in a city, and even a small town like Antigonish which greatly benefits, in this regards, from having St. F.X. in its limits.
But, more and more, folks in those rural communities are stepping up to answer that challenge and that is certainly the case around the Municipality of the County of Antigonish.
Arisaig floor curling
Charlie Renouf and his wife Paula started floor curling at the Arisaig Community Centre two times a week, after having participated in the activity during the regional 55 + Games in St. Andrews last summer.
“We started in early October with borrowed equipment until we established the interest of more than 40 of our community members, and now have two sets of our own equipment,” Renouf wrote in an email to the Casket.
“We play every Thursday evening from 5 to 7:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m., and have an intro to the game and practice session on Saturday from 1 to 4:30 p.m.,” he added, although the Saturday practice sessions have tapered off in recent weeks.
“We now have approximately 30 to 35 active curlers with another eight to 10 who will substitute when someone can’t make it. This activity is free to our community and has contributed to our hall being used a lot more than ever.”
One of those curlers is Don Flemming. He talked about the social aspect of the activity during a recent Thursday evening session.
“Because it’s not a sport like a racquet sport or anything like hockey, which requires your constant attention, there is a fair bit of opportunity for social interaction while you’re playing,” Flemming said.
“And, as a result, I think that is one of the reasons why it’s so popular; people can stand around and share a laugh or just chat, and still be playing the game at the same time. It’s proving to be quite popular.”
Flemming said the sport is a combination of curling and shuffle board.
“That’s just about exactly what it is,” he said, noting they play in teams of two and with two ‘rinks’ set-up; so two games going at a time involving eight players.
“And because the floor here is not perfectly flat, some of the tiles are getting a little old, there is a lot of interaction between the floor and the stones; so it’s not as if it’s all skill, there is a fair bit of luck involved. But you do get, somewhat, accustomed to reading the various little idiosyncrasies of the floor.”
Flemming said the best evidence of the activity’s popularity is that most people who have come out for an evening or afternoon, keep coming back out.
“Which is what you want from anything,” he said. “It’s active, you’re with other people, it’s enjoyable, and there is some healthy competition that takes place sometimes, but it’s all in good fun. I know I look forward to coming out every time.”
The plan was to go until this month but Flemming said he can see it continuing, maybe, a little longer.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go even into the summer,” he said.
Renouf talked about the provincial 55 + Games coming to Antigonish this summer.
“We hope we will be entering a few teams,” he said. “We also hope that next fall we can introduce the game to other Antigonish County communities.”
Lochaber pickle ball
More in the early stages of its establishment is pickle ball at the Lochaber Community Centre, organized by Paul McClung, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, from 10 a.m. to noon.
Speaking to the Casket during a Tuesday session on March 26, McClung said they’ve been going for about a month.
“It’s open to anybody,” he said, adding they’re hoping to grow to where the sport has been established in a community like Arisaig, where people are waiting around the court for one game to finish.
“So four at a time with another four or eight sitting around the court, enjoying themselves; so you get a break every 15 to 20,” he said.
“Indoors in the winter and we have the tape to put more lines on the tennis court outside, for pickle ball in the summer … so we’ll be doing that.”
He noted a pickle ball open house in St. Andrews and a demonstration by John Buckland-Nicks in Lochaber, motivated setting up the opportunity at the local hall for people to enjoy the “growing” sport.
“We [he and his wife] could see from the other people who were playing, they were really enjoying themselves,” McClung said, adding it’s “as active as you want it to be.”
McClung makes that point to reassure people the sport isn’t “dangerous,” as some were concerned with after hearing about a couple of injuries by participants.
“And it can be much more competitive than what we’re doing here; we’re just rallying,” he said. “Really, it’s more fun when it’s competitive.”