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Want to play an Olympic winter sport? New curling rink unfurling in sunny Austin

Curl Austin is Texas' only ice rink dedicated to just curling. (Curl Austin)

Austin temperatures may hit the mid-80s in December, but new curling center Curl Austin has kept it cool since September as they teach warm-blooded Austinites about a fast-growing Winter Olympic sport: curling.

The sport, vaguely known by many but deeply understood by few, has its origins in 16th century Scotland but slowly spread as Scottish immigrants moved to North America and other Northern European countries. It's seen a renaissance in the 22 years since it was reintroduced into the Winter Olympics—and now, Austin residents don't have to wait until February to catch curling in action and even learn about it themselves.

Curl Austin is Texas' only curling-specific gym, an important detail for curling connoisseurs who know all too well the nicks and scrapes that hinder good curling at hockey rinks. That's because small droplets of ice are carefully formed on the surface of Curl Austin and other curling rinks across (mostly) the North, creating a challenge as curlers work to keep their stones straight and as close to the bulls-eye as possible. Consider it a giant shuffleboard on ice.

It's a sport that involves brooms, beer and even tech-savvy strategy—the perfect recipe for Austin and eventually the rest of the country, according to Curl Austin President David Gersenson.

"I love Austin... it's my type of place (and) I was really excited about it," Gersenson told Austonia. "I believe ultimately that curling is going to fit into every culture."

Gersenson, a Michigan native, compares the sport to pickleball, another once-obscure game that has taken Austin by storm. Like pickleball, which Gersenson has fervently picked up as well, curling can be embraced by people of all ages and skill levels.

At their two-hour Learn to Curl classes, Gersenson said they've seen curlers as young as 10 and old as 86 pick up the inclusive sport. It's a largely gender-neutral sport as well, and Gersenson said there are even having preliminary talks about a coed curling league.

Gersenson said the sport is fully accessible to both kids and adults. (Curl Austin)

"Big or small, young or old, athletic or arthritic, anybody can curl," Gersenson said. "It gives kids who don't have a sport, a sport that they can compete in that's more about balancing, communication and strategy."

And in true Austin-adjacent fashion, curling is a rare sport that promotes drinking beer—before, after and even during the game. By complete chance, Curl Austin is nestled right next to brewery Austin Beerworks and offers to pick up and bring beers to customers during their lessons.

"Beer and curling go together like peanut butter and jelly," Gersenson said.

And people are beginning to notice the easygoing nature of the sport. Even with COVID restrictions, curling grew by 18% in the U.S. in 2020. The rise of the sport—which has strangely been the butt of a joke for multiple Texas politicians—can also be attributed to what Texas Monthly labeled a "miracurl on ice," when the underdog men's team shocked the world by taking home a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics.

The rink has seen its fair share of challenges since its opening in September as an emerging winter sport in a balmy state. But they found help in the highest of places, when one of those famed gold-medal Olympians, Tyler George, joined the crew for a few months as Curl Austin's program manager and ambassador.

At just three months old, Curl Austin is focused on getting its feet on the ground and offering Learn to Curl events several days a week as well as private and group events. It has grown each month, something they think will only continue as the 2022 Winter Olympics take off in February 2022.

"We all believe that curling is a sport that America, once they really get into it, is going to fall in love with," Gersenson said. "I think that it's been a little underground now but has been gaining steam since being reintroduced into the Olympics. We still may be a little bit ahead of our time, but we believe it's coming in at some point."


Bites & Sips: what's new in food and drink
Consumable Content

  • San Marcos favorite Industry Burger opens "mid-October" on E. 5th, featuring "low key healthy" Texas fare.
  • Cinnaholic at The Arboretum opens Friday, October 14, serving "create your own" cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats.
  • San Francisco's Marufuku Ramen opens next Wednesday, October 12, in the Mueller District.
  • Carpenter Hotel announces its popup food truck, Lil Carpenter, open Fri-Sun both ACL weekends, serving what you want, early to late, coffee to donuts, to dogs/burgers/fries/beer.
Airport braces for high traffic this month with ACL and F1 drawing in travelers

(AUS airport/Instagram)

With major entertainment events slated for October, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is gearing up for a busy month.

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