Bonspiel at Idaburn Dam, 2010 -  Photographer:  Janyne Fletcher

1860 match at Eglinton Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland

Thomas Callender. Image courtesy nzetc.victoria.ac.nz


History of Curling in NZ​​​​​​​

Curling first came to New Zealand with Scottish immigrants in the 1860s. Early settlers in Central Otago and the Mackenzie Country of the South Island found the winter climate suited their curling traditions.

In 1873 Thomas Callender, the "father of New Zealand curling", formed the Dunedin Curling Club, the earliest club that still plays today.

The Baxter Cup was first played for in 1884 as the Dunedin Club's points trophy and is believed to be the oldest New Zealand sporting trophy still competed for in any sport. The Baxter Cup is now awarded to the winner of the Naseby Curling Council's one-day bonspiel.

Curling quickly spread throughout Central Otago, and was a popular winter activity for the gold miners during the winter. In 1886 the New Zealand Curling Association was established.

By 1900, there were nine clubs, and the game was taking hold. The First World War held back the growth of curling, and a bonspiel was held in 1922 after an eight-year lull.

With the game active again, participation was level in the 1920's, but experienced growth in the 1930s, including the first international match in 1934 as an Australian team toured New Zealand.

The Second World War put the brakes on the sport's growth, but the end of the war and the return of servicemen fuelled a growth period, the 1950s, when ten new clubs formed.

Steady growth continued through the 1960s and 1970s. In 1973, a party of 21 curlers and wives travelled on tour to Scotland - the first curling tour made by New Zealanders. This marked the first time Kiwi curlers had ever seen a hack, or played on fast indoor ice.

The game continued through the 1980s in the traditional "crampit" style. In 1993, New Zealand joined the World Curling Federation, and legendary curler Keith Wendorf was dispatched by the WCF to New Zealand to teach "hack (Olympic) curling", the variant of the game most commonly played today for many local and all international games. The trophy played for the Dunedin club's mid-season bonspiel is named the Wendorf Rock in his honour.

New Zealand first sent an international team to compete in an official WCF international competition, the Pacific Championships, in 1991. New Zealand has competed every year since then.

In 1996, the Auckland Curling Club was formed, the first club on the North Island, and the first club to completely play from the hack.

In 1998, New Zealand won its first-ever Pacific Championship, and New Zealand thus made its first-ever appearance at a World Curling Championships at the 1999 Worlds in Saint John, Canada. The men repeated this feat in 2001 and recorded the first wins for a New Zealand team at the World Championships level. 2000 saw the first National Senior Women's team compete at World Seniors and the first Junior Men's and Women's teams competing at the World Junior B Championships.

In a significant milestone, the New Zealand Men qualified for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, although they did not manage to win a match at the Games.

While the Olympic Games looms in New Zealand's curling future, the past is both preserved and cherished, and traditions maintained, of the same outdoor game that Thomas Callender brought to New Zealand's shores over 125 years ago.

Images from Papers Past courtesy of the National Lbrary of NZ

Initial meeting of the Dunedin Curling Club

The Star (Christchurch), 6 Dec 1873, page 2, column 5

First competition medal issued by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club

Otago Witness, 13 Feb 1875, page 15, column 5

Presentation to Mr Thomas Callender

Otago Daily Times, Issue 5113, 8 July 1878, Page 3