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Austin curling enthusiasts hit the ice to learn quirky Olympic sport

Austin curling enthusiasts hit the ice to learn quirky Olympic sport

Lone Star Curling Club
Yes, there is curling in Austin. Lone Star Curling Club/Facebook

If it’s Sunday morning in Austin, the rink at Chaparral Ice on Anderson Lane is filled with local curling enthusiasts. For two hours each week, the Lone Star Curling Club throws rocks and sweeps the ice in teams of four.

On the final Sunday in January, the 30 or so curlers represent a cross section of Austinites — there’s a man in a cowboy hat, a woman in hot pink leggings, a bearded man in a beanie and flannel, and a smattering of burnt orange. They range in age from a high school junior to a man in his 70s.

For some, it may be their first time on the ice, but not so for Guy Davis, who just returned from competing at nationals against Olympic-level curlers in Minneapolis.

Almost four years into curling, Davis says the game is a lot like golf in that it’s a strategy game. “I first thought everything would be simple, but there’s a lot more layering than what I imagined,” he says. “It’s a precision sport. You pick the target, aim for it. Then there’s every variable possible.”

Founded in 2006, Lone Star Curling Club meets year-round, travels to tournaments (known as bonspiels), and offers corporate events. Each May, they host a tournament that brings in former Olympians and is free for the public to watch. Every four years during the winter Olympics, the club sees a spike in interest, so they host learn-to-curl events that draw hundreds to the ice.

That’s exactly how Darin Henley came to curling eight years ago. He found himself recording Olympic curling, or waking up at odd hours to watch matches, so he came out to Lone Star to learn himself. Now he’s the club’s vice president.

“Everybody’s shocked we have curling in Austin. We get that all the time,” he says. Once they try it, he says, they are again surprised at how fun it is.

Though this winter sport flies under the radar in Austin, the demand is enough that Dennis Dunn, an original member of Lone Star Curling Club, and his wife Anita Dunn bought property on Brodie Lane with plans to open an Olympic level curling facility. However, those plans hit a snag when the city of Sunset Valley, which has jurisdiction over the piece of land, wouldn’t sign off on the plans because the percentage of impervious cover (human-made surfaces that don't absorb rainwater) exceeded regulations.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Anita Dunn, adding they couple had begun talks with USA Curling to bring tournaments and Olympic trials to Austin. Buck Krawczyk, president of Lone Star Curling Club, said a dedicated facility would allow their club to grow and add youth programs.

“Any sport ... it brings events and supports the local economy,” she said. Now they are hoping to work with the City of Austin to bring a facility to a different location. “We haven’t given up.”

While the city’s decision was disappointing, there was somewhat of a silver lining. The Dunns were able to turn the Brodie Lane property into The Barn, a bar and music venue that make use of the property’s original 1950s buildings. Naturally, they plan to host curling watch parties during the Olympics.

Until the Dunns' dream of an Austin curling mecca are realized, curling enthusiasts can still take to the rink at Chaparral Ice to learn this quirky Olympic sport. For more information, head to Lone Star Curling Club.