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The Rubber Curling Hack

Curlers in actionEdmontonian Elias B. "Ole" Olson, like many Canadians, was an avid curler. In 1939, during a bonspiel in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, he was preparing to launch his rock. He thought out his shot, took hold of the granite stone, placed his foot in the dent hacked from the ice and began to push off. Then, at the crucial moment, he slipped and missed his shot. It is not known how hard Olson hit the ice, but like Newton, the bump was enough motivation to invent a solution. For the passionate curler about to make an important shot, a hole hacked from the curling ice was simply too unreliable.

curling hacksOlson reasoned that rubber, commonly used in car tires and shoes for a good grip on ice, would also serve the curler well. On his way home, he purchased some raw rubber form a tire company and began tinkering. Using the family stove he set to work baking the prototypes. Eventually, Olson settled on a chunky design that provided grip for the thrower's foot and prevented slipping.

The design was such an obvious improvement, that local clubs quickly purchased the device. Olson was also an expert icemaker and was able to embed the rubber hack in the curling surface during the ice-making process. Doing this firmly cemented the rubber chunk so that curlers could concentrate on their shots, confident that their foot was positioned firmly. The risk of falling was greatly reduced. With a secure push-off point, the curler could throw harder and more accurately.

Although never patented, Olson's rubber curling hack became the industry standard and curlers sought out Olson at his Edmonton store. The embedded rubber hack was used by everyone from amateurs at local bonspiels to professionals at world championships. Olson's Curling Manufacturing and Supplies Ltd. still sells a rubber hack and manufactures a bolt-down-style hack. In the true spirit of innovation, the company has adapted to changes within the industry even when these changes evolve beyond Olson's original design.

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