Ruaraidh Whyte has spent his life involved in curling.
Over the years, he’s successfully tried his hand at playing, coaching and preparing facilities for the sport.
But the Scot’s love for the stones and sweeps began in his hometown of Dumfries when he was a child.
He said: “In Scotland, the schools go along to the ice rink and they try curling,” he tells me, as he recalls his first taste of the ice.
“My sister tried curling through the schools. She quite enjoyed it so wanted to pursue it further and we went along to the ice rink after school to the junior club that was formed. My parents just said to me ‘do you want to have a shot?’ so I went on and had a shot. I haven’t stopped since so I obviously enjoyed it.”
It was to be the start of a curling journey that would take Ruaraidh to Scottish Junior and Men’s Senior Championships and later a future in the sport in other capacities.
Next up for the youngster was joining the local club.
“I remember joining the Dumfries curling club and starting off down in the ranks and then over the years progressing to a higher position. I also firmly remember moving up and then starting to win some of the leagues and competitions the club would run and then because I was getting into it, I decided that I wanted to go out onto the actual curling circuit itself.
“That involves you creating your own team. Obviously, you start off with the people you know locally and asking them if want to come along and join you and then as you’re out on the circuit, you meet other people and then the following year you might team up with them.
“I remember going along to these competitions and they were very sociable events so you make a lot of friends through it. There’s been a lot of good fun and a lot of good memories.”
And one of those highlights would come when Ruaraidh got the chance to feature at the Scottish Senior Men’s Championship, although the opportunity was rather unexpected.
“The first time I played in that, I was actually asked by some men that I’d met when I played at the Scottish Mixed with my sister and my brother. They messaged me asking me if I’d like to join them in the Men’s competitions the next year. To me that was a big confidence boost because I didn’t really think that many of the adults knew who I was so that was quite a nice thing to experience.
But perhaps Ruaraidh’s greatest achievement in curling was yet to come. In 2014, another unexpected turn of events would see him become coach of Spain’s Mixed Doubles team for the duration of the World Mixed Doubles Championship. Together, they managed to secure the bronze medal; Spain’s first ever world medal.
“The ice rink that I’d just moved from (Dumfries) was holding the World Senior Championships and the World Mixed Doubles Championships so them if I could come back and volunteer to work at it. I wanted to gain some experience with some of the top ice makers in the world.
“Then I got a message from a friend’s mum and she asked me if I would coach the Spanish Mixed Doubles team. I actually first replied saying no because I didn’t have confidence in myself to do it and thought they could probably get someone better. I then got a message from the team themselves asking me if I would do it and I kind of hesitated. Then I got a bit of a kick from my parents saying ‘you might as well’ so I did.
“It was a good experience because I’d never actually done it from the coaching side of things so during the competition itself, I was learning in terms of what notes to make. In fact, in the very first game, we had a televised game so people were obviously watching it and then I got called in for a time-out. A time-out is when the coach gets called down to the ice to give their input so I was put in the limelight from the word go which was actually good fun. I look back on it and still think I told them the right decision!
“When it started getting down to the crunch time and we knew that we had an opportunity to get a medal, obviously the adrenaline was pumping a bit more. When we won that game, it was a bit of a relief.”
Away from the spotlight of television appearances and World Championships, Ruaraidh now works as the Activities Supervisor at the North West’s very own curling rink at the FlowerBowl, Barton Grange. The role encompasses all the skills he’s gathered during his time in the sport, as he coaches and trains staff, but also prepares and treats the ice; a more complicated task than it may sound.
“There’s so much behind it; understanding the science of it obviously makes you better at knowing your job.
And just when you thought all that was it, Ruaraidh’s also found the time to make himself a Guiness World Record holder in the past. While still at the Dumfries rink, he and his colleagues set the record for the longest continuous curling match.
“The first time we did it, we got 61 hours and 39 minutes I think it was.
“We were thrilled with that but it quickly got beaten by a rink in Canada so we decided to do it again and we ended up getting 73 hours that time”.
Sadly, that record was later beaten again by a Swiss rink with a time of over 100 hours. But will Ruaraidh and his team ever be back to take the title for a third time?
“There have been talks about maybe doing it again but the first 24 hours was always a killer. I think everyone remembers that!”