In Photos: Canada’s First Bongspiel, a Cannabis-Infused Curling Tournament

bongspiel 2019

[Editor’s Note: It was just a matter of time for stoned curling to become a thing. Canadians know how to do winter!]

A recent curling tournament in Wiarton, Ontario was unremarkable in many ways. It included 16 four-person teams whose members took to the ice aiming to come out on top. But in some ways, it was a bonspiel unlike any other.
bongspiel canada curling

Photos by John Hryniuk for Leafly Canada

From the Stoned Throwers to the Barbara Buds, team names made reference to cannabis. Images of cannabis leaves could be spotted everywhere in the building, from table tops to windows. People wore T-shirts that said, “Weed and curling: A match made in Canada.” Across the street, participants gathered in a small tent to smoke joints between games.

It was Canada’s first official bongspiel.

“The main difference between this tournament and a conventional bonspiel is that there is open cannabis consumption at this event,” convener Ted Ratcliffe told Leafly while seated in the club’s rec room, which includes some comfortable couches and a stuffed groundhog perched on a shelf. (Spotting the dead rodent, one wonders what fate might befall the regions’ famous prognosticator Wiarton Willie if, on Groundhog Day, he predicts a late Spring.)

Photos by John Hryniuk for Leafly Canada

“Curlers have always been partiers. They have been open about drinking beer but have kept quiet about smoking weed.” Until now.

Ratcliffe and co-convener Grant Nicholson are good friends who love curling and smoking cannabis in equal measure. While relaxing in a garage they call “the curling crisis centre” they sometimes come up with puns that reference both activities. Throwing stoned (rather than stones) is one of many. “The puns just write themselves,” said Ratcliffe. A few years ago, they wondered aloud what a cannabis-infused curling event would look like.

bongspielPhotos by John Hryniuk for Leafly Canada

When cannabis became legal nationwide in October, the pair met with executives at the Wiarton and District Curling Club, many of whom are seniors. They were taken aback by Ratcliffe’s proposal. “But when they wrapped their heads around the concept, and looked into the legality of such an event, they got onboard quickly,” said Ratcliffe, adding that they saw it as an opportunity to draw younger people to the club.

Nicholson, a graphic designer, created the artwork for the bongspiel and gave it to potential sponsors. “Then word got out. The news spread to online curling forums and that was all it took. We sold all the tickets within 24 hours. “We had to hurry to get our ducks in a row,” Ratcliffe said.

Several businesses sponsored the event and contributed cannabis-related prizes, including an automated home grow system, a humidifier designed for use in greenhouses and growing supplies among others. Proceeds from the event went to the curling club.

bongspielPhotos by John Hryniuk for Leafly Canada

In addition to the tournament, the event included an informal contest to determine which curler grows the best cannabis. “Right now, people are outside trying each other’s joints and filling out scorecards,” Ratcliffe said while the stuffed groundhog peered at him through glassy eyes. “The goal was to bring people together to talk about cannabis.”

bongspielPhotos by John Hryniuk for Leafly Canada

“Everyone has been enjoying this event. We’re all having a lot of fun,” Josh Harrison, who has been curling for decades, told Leafly after one of his games. “I thought there would be a lot of kids showing up and getting crazy but it hasn’t been like that. You don’t have to smoke weed to participate. There hasn’t been any pressure at all,” he said, adding that he hadn’t smoked yet that day. “I haven’t heard about any other event like this. I think it’s a great concept.”

The club, whose volunteers served food and beverages in the lounge area throughout the day, is keen to hold another bongspiel. Ratcliffe also told Leafly he had received expressions of interest from other clubs in the region.

bongspielPhotos by John Hryniuk for Leafly Canada

“We didn’t receive any pushback from people in the community,” he said. “Most people were just surprised we were able to hold an event like this. But really, it’s not a big deal. Recreational weed is legal so we’re now coming together and celebrating what we’ve been doing in the closet for years.”

“We all curl and we all smoke weed,” said Harrison. “It’s a pretty good combination.”

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