SPRING LAKE, Mich. (WOOD) — Spring Lake High School teacher Aaron Andres is getting into the Olympic spirit in a unique way. The majority of his free time in the winter months is spent in the backyard of his home.
“I think I’m the only backyard curling rink in the West Michigan area. I got to believe that,” Andres joked.
Inspired by the 2018 Olympics and Team USA’s stunning Gold Medal performance, Andres decided to give the sport a try.
“We actually played out in the bayou the first year. We realized it was really fun, but you just can’t depend on the lake, so I thought, well, I’ll try something unique,” said Andres.
A little project quickly became a big one when Andres decided to build a rink right in his backyard.
“There isn’t a lot online about how to do something like this, and so I just figured we could create some type of frame. I actually started out with a smaller frame and just got a tarp for hockey rinks. When I started filling it up, I’m like, I’m not going to have enough room. I actually had to pour that water out and start back over,” Andres said.
The 8-foot by 38-foot frame is made from 2-inch by 6-inch planks with a set of lights and a table area on each end. The rink is protected by a 10-foot by 40-foot ice rink tarp, which can be filled with up to nine inches of ice. It takes approximately two weeks to fill the rink so that the layers can freeze in stages with eight to nine hours of actually filling time. Andres also created targets with multi-colored lights, which are two inches under the ice.
“The hardest thing was actually the pucks, making the pucks. Just take a couple of dog bowls, and you solder them together, and you fill them with concrete, and you go with it,” said Andres.
The playing technique is a bit different, but players can get down on the ice if they want to play the traditional way. Most players, however, choose to remain standing.
“It’s a concept of curling,” he explained. “It’s almost like shuffleboard, but it’s actually a fun way because you’re not on the ice, so it’s less dangerous.”
Andres tried to keep many of the same traditions that have shaped the sport’s history, including a Broomstacking Lounge and starting each game with the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “O Canada.” He’s even given players the nickname Laker Curling Association.
“We’ve had teachers come out; we’ve done something during the week. There’s no actual organized LCA. It’s just that fun kind of branding and trying to get something different,” Andres said.
The setup is only a third the size of what you will see in the Olympics, but still enough to get approval from Team USA.
“My first year, I had taken some pictures on social media, and I sent them to one of the players of the 2018 Olympic Team, Matt Hamilton. He responded right back, and so he follows us online, and he actually gave us the nickname of that’s one hot piece of ice,” Andres said.
While Andres will no doubt be cheering on Team USA come next week, he’s just happy to have something to look forward to during the cold Michigan winters and thankful for a community that shares his same love of the sport.