You get what you pay for. The club store sells a variety of curling brooms. But there are a DOZEN types of brooms! New players are often tempted by a $69 broom because it's cheap, but here's the deal - it's just as heavy as a club broom and you'll be wanting to replace it within a year. When you purchase your own broom, look for these features:
1. weight - Go light. At least a carbon fiber broom. Balance Plus “lite speed” is the lightest available, but some find it too light. The Goldline AirHead has a fun name and is pretty light.
2. diameter of the handle - Look at the diameter of the broom you are buying and how big your hands/long your fingers are. Will your hand cramp after a long game with a smaller handle? Or struggle to hold the larger one? Hold the broom as though you were sweeping with it... could you comfortably hold it like that for hours? (You don't have to be a big guy to need a larger diameter broom)
3. taper/shape - the Hardline brooms in the club store taper downward - they are narrower by the head of the broom. Balance Plus brooms are wider at the head of the broom. Some brooms have no taper. Some brooms are oblong – not round.
4. surface - some brooms are tacky, some are slick, some are in between. Goldline makes a broom that is very tacky. Hardline and Balance Plus brooms offer some tack – and only in some areas (where you need it).
5. pad – pads can be changed but changing costs $. Some brooms will come with a regular head (7") or a an XL head (9"). Wider head gives you a larger brushing surface. Your broom pad should be changed at least once a year, depending on how much you sweep. Different pads have different features, and you can see these at the club store...
Norway Pad (has a little Norway flag) - FANTASTIC pad due to the string underneath, lasts 6-12 months depending on frequency of use
Plain pad with waterproof coating - comes in all sorts of colors - slightly more effective than the non-waterproof version, lasts 6-12 months depending on frequency of use
Tournament Performance brush head - comes in a variety of colors, used on club brooms, lasts 6-12 months depending on frequency of use and if it's left dirty and wet (as our club brooms sometimes are).
Slick yellow "competition" pad - terrible! The WCF claims this pad works well for serious competitors and no one else. Only use this pad if you're going to play in a competition with WCF broom rules. It only lasts a few games, then you need to replace it again. This is the only broom pad that is allowed in competition - because it's practically useless. These pads all have an alpha-numeric serial numbers on them so officials know you have the official pad.
Whatever you do - ALWAYS clean your broom head during and after a game or practice!
Grippers (as they are called) are available for sale in the store. If you think curling is going to be for you, buy yourself a pair of shoes if you can afford it. Shoes can change your game. Members should own their own grippers and not use the events grippers (which are for non-curlers who are learning and cost the club four digits every year). Grippers should be changed every 6-12 months, depending on frequency of use. Grippers that are old/crumbling are the number one source for "debris" on the ice. When you purchase shoes, a gripper must be purchased to cover the slider as a separate item (they're not included)
A split slider - or hinged slider - (2 pieces) is recommended as opposed to one solid slider. They cost about $30 more, but are worth it. Goldline shoes are very comfy but wear out quickly. Asham is the "Cadillac" of curling shoes, but perhaps not as warm as Goldine. Balance Plus shoes are very popular around the club but tend to run heavy. Olsens are often regretted and the new neoprene ones are not particilarly warm so think about if you tend to have hot or cold feet. But the neoprene shoes are perfect for large hot feet. Just be sure your shoes have a split or hinged slider. Not one solid piece along the shoe. Having two pieces of slider is FAR more comfy and easier to balance. Some sliders have a circular indent in the middle. This pushes the balance points to the outside of the slider and in theory make it easier to balance.
While you can’t try on curling shoes locally, Steve's Curling is used to playing the mail it - try it on - return for a different size game. Curling shoes are advertised with slider thickness such as 3/32, 1/16, 3/16". Thicker teflon slider = faster / farther slide (thicker is also considered more 'advanced'). Some shoes have a slider with a rating - in which case the higher number means faster - you'll slide farther. Brooms Up is an alternative to Steve's Curling. You can also contact Granite Curling Club (Seattle) or Richmond Curling Club (Vancouver, BC) and they'll tell you what they have in stock before you drive all the way up there. Richmond's store has a pretty large supply.
If you don't like the brooms at the club store, or want a particular color combination you can ask Steve Elliott () to order a specific one, or order online. Goldline is a Canadian based company, but when you order from them it usually ships from Wisconsin so don't let that border detour you. Steve's curling (www.stevescurling.com) and Brooms Up (www.broomsupcurlingsupplies.com) sell a wide variety of brooms as well. They don't really advertise it, but both places can usually come up with what you want if you request it specifically.
Hate curling shoes but have a favorite pair of tennis shoes? Try Craig's Curling Shoes (craigscurlingshoes.com). You sent him the shoes, he sends them back as curling shoes. Shoes with a flat sole, such as skate shoes work best.
Protective Head Wear
Protective head wear is not required unless you are 12 and under, or consistently fall and hit your head, but it can be helpful. Many curlers (particularly those who are older or have a history of concussions) will often wear a protective hat or beanie, if not a helmet. Hockey helmets are recommended as you can hear while wearing them compared to a motorcycle helmet. Ski helmets work as well.
Beanies: http://crasche.com/products (they even have one specifically for curling); or http://www.goldlinecurling.com/en/head-first-protective-curling-headgear-toque