Nernberger’s goal is to build a better broom
BY BRIAN WILSON
In designing a new broom head system, Medford graduate Kroy Nernberger tried to solve many of the problem he saw with traditional designs. Innovations include a way to adjust pivot tension to the player, and a sliding edge that allows for multiple sliding styles. The biggest innovation is a way to quickly and easily replace the fabric playing surface of the broom head. Traditional designs require replacing the entire head leading to additional waste and expense. His design was recently certified by the World Curling Federation for use in all levels of competition. His company, End Game Curling, is based in Madison where Nernberger works as a mechanical engineer.
Medford native Kroy Nernberger is making his mark on the curling world with a brand of curling brooms produced in the United States.
When it comes to curling Nernberger knows his stuff. His curling experience began in the fall of 1997 when he joined the Medford High School Curling Team. He curled through high school, winning the state championship title his senior year alongside Ryan Lemke. Through college at UWEau Claire and UW-Madison and beyond he has remained competitive in the sport competing in Men’s Nationals events.
“I’ve never won at nationals, but I have gotten second a couple times,” Nernberger said, noting he was taken as an alternate with Olympic gold medalist John Shuster’s team to the 2016 world championship earning a bronze medal. He has also competed in two Men’s Olympic Trials and one Mixed Doubles Olympic Trials.
One thing that has always bothered Nernberger is the waste involved with changing traditional broom heads.
In curling, players use special brooms to sweep the ice in front of a curling stone. This sweeping action melts a thin layer of ice in front of the rock and removes any debris. Sweeping can impact its direction and the distance the rock travels. As can be imagined, the broom heads wear out and need to be replaced. This is especially true at the highest levels of the sport where equipment must be in top condition to remain competitive.
In traditional broom designs, if a head gets dirty, you have to replace the entire thing. Nernberger was bothered by the waste and expense of constantly replacing broom heads when it was the fabric playing surface that was worn out. “The broom heads have been more expensive than they need to be,” Nernberger said.
He began replacing the fabric on traditional heads on his own, a process he describes as being “pretty tedious” involving taking the heads apart and pulling out dozens of staples. “As I did that hundreds of times, I realized there would be better ways of doing this,” he said. This sparked the idea for designing a new broom design.
While he was at it, Nernberger also looked at other areas of broom design. “There are a lot of little things that I thought could be improved,” he said, explaining that he tried to incorporate some of the things into his design ideas.
One example is with the placement of the slider bar. Many brooms have a slider bar on the head with the slider bar in a specific orientation, which works OK if that happens to be how you hold your broom. Nernberger wanted more versatility and incorporated a slider bar that is smooth and consistent in any sliding positions and angle. Another issue Nernberger saw with many brooms is that the pivoting mechanism is generally too loose or too tight, referring to the ball joint where the broom head joins the broom handle. Nernberger felt there needed to be a way for curlers to adjust the pivot tension on their own to set it to where they wanted it to be.
While many high level athletes have ideas on ways to improve their equipment for optimum performance, what sets Nernberger apart is that when he is not curling he works full-time as a mechanical engineer helping design Black and Decker kitchen appliances.
He started working on his own broom head designs for the past five to six years. For the first year of so, he uses 3-D modeling to refine the ideas. Then came using 3-D printers to do prototyping followed by old fashioned trial and error as he tried different combinations.
“I probably made about six different prototype iterations,” he said, along with many more 3-D computer model versions.
The end result was a broom head that allows users to quickly and easily replace the fabric surface. He patented his design and created End Game Curling to market his new product.
Nernberger said the feedback on his broom heads has been positive. “Everyone that has used them has liked and has been excited by them,” he said.
As with any innovator, Nernberger is constantly looking at ways he can tweak and improve his designs to make them even better.
His business recently got a boost when he received a coveted certification from the World Curling Federation (WCF). WCF certification is an absolute necessity if you want to sell curling equipment. The certification means that it is allowed to be used in competitive events at the national and international level. He said many people have been awaiting the certification before they jumped in to purchase one of his brooms.
End Game Curling offers three types of replacement fabric for the broom heads. For club play there is a traditional woven material on one side and a plasticlike coating on the other. The fabric is reversible allowing for either side to be used. The choice for competitive curlers is more limited with only one allowed fabric type.
At $160 for a complete broom, End Game Curling is competitive with other high-end brooms from established companies such as Hardline and Balance Plus. What adds value to Nernberger’s brooms though is the low cost and ease of being able to replace the fabric head without the waste and expense of his competitor’s broom designs.
Nernberger sells his brooms through his website www.endgamecurling.com. He also sells them through retailers such as Steve’s Curling Supply and at curling club pro shops.