Curling was invented in medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from chronicles dated February of 1541.
Today, the game is most firmly established in Canada, having been brought over by Scottish immigrants. Established in 1807, The Royal Montreal Curling Club is the oldest established sports club still active in North America.
Innovations in brooms, rocks and ice have propelled the sport forward to the international stage, and the introduction of the Red Brick Slider established Asham Curling Supplies as the leader in curling footwear.
With a great passion
Armed with a love of the game and an inclination to develop it, Arnold Asham started Asham Curling Supplies in his basement in 1977. Unique because of the ribbing across the bottom of the slider enabled curlers to slide further when delivering a rock.
“It was faster than anything on the market, and I knew I had a winning product,” says Asham. “But I didn’t really think about a company, I felt I was only satisfying the demand for fellow curlers.”
After orders for the Red Brick slider from friends quickly snowballed into a business, Asham was inspired to design his own shoe. By 1982 he was selling 15,000 pairs annually. “When I finally realized I was going to be successful it was very satisfying. I quit the government job I had for ten years, with a great pension plan, and dove into the company,” smiles Asham.
Asham equipment and supplies can now be found in curling hot spots around the world, including retailers across Canada, the U.S., Europe and Japan.
Sweeping challenges to the side
The ice isn’t always smooth in the curling business and challenging moments are constant, like having to replace 5,000 damaged shoe soles from China, and when a company overseas was extraordinarily sluggish in payment. “We sent $50,000 worth of stock to Sweden four years ago,“ says Asham. “There has been little action, and no compensation.”
Then there was the time thousands of R&D money was lost when the World Curling Federation banned the Asham Xtreme Force broom handle that, due to it’s specialized grips and ergonomic design, enables curlers to increase sweeping power and endurance, allowing them to manipulate the trajectory of a stone in ways never seen before. “I don’t like it, but I understand it”, says Asham. “They want everyone to be on an equal playing field, and keep it a throwing game.”
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Their contribution is innovation
Since the entry of curling in the 1998 Olympic games, the sport has undergone a major evolution, and according to the Global Curling Equipment Market Report 2017-2021, a major trend in the curling market is technological advances in equipment.
Asham Curling Supplies has been a major contributor to the game’s progress by consistently introducing revolutionary products; like engineering a shoe with two circles on the sole. A circle has equal resistance throughout its circumference so it has a tendency to slide straight. Additionally, the circles are attached with Velcro so when the slider becomes scratched after use, it can easily be turned and re-positioned to provide the straightest sliding path.
Asham is well known for innovative projects, like their Boomerang broom. Its design moves debris efficiently to the sides, allows sweepers to get as close to the rock as possible, and because the front of the boomerang head is the same shape as the back, the sweepers can ‘stack’ their brooms, adding power to their technique and speed to the rock.
Asham is proud of his Métis background and has been the recipient of several aboriginal business awards. He celebrates his Métis heritage with his Asham Stompers, an award-winning dance troupe, which preserves the history of the Métis people by dancing the Red River Jig.
With both curling and competitive jigging competitions occupying much of his time, Asham contemplates retirement, confident that the family legacy will continue. Two of his children, Nathan and Amanda, have been working in the business for several years, and the youngest, Katlyn, has also expressed interest in joining the family enterprise.
Drawing on experience from an export journey that began with shipping curling products from his basement operation, to becoming a pioneer in curling circles in Canada and around the world, Arnold Asham’s export advice for SME’s is modest: “Be patient, err on the side of caution, but at the same time, go for it!” says Asham. “It’s not difficult. Just do it!”