Leaving It on the Ice

A Dallas attorney sweeps away stress through curling.

Interview by Jillian Beck

Bull Riding
David Chang throws a curling stone during practice for his weekly club team in Dallas. Photograph by Carolyn Hotra/DFW Curling Club.

On any given day David Chang is a hard-charging attorney, handling commercial land and property transactions for Koons Real Estate Law in Dallas. For several hours a week, though, he trades in complex deals and conference rooms for ice rinks and brooms.

Born in Canada and raised in North Texas, Chang first noticed curling while watching the Winter Olympics in 2002. He sat mesmerized by players sliding 40-pound granite rocks down the sheet while others rapidly swept brooms back and forth on the ice to alter the stones’ speed and direction, and he found it odd compared with high-energy sports like speed skating and downhill skiing.

But a year later, a chance encounter with curling got him hooked. While pursuing a graduate business degree in Toronto, Chang filled in on a classmate’s team for a game one night. That one competition turned to many, and when he moved back to Texas after finishing his degree, Chang was surprised to learn that a curling club had recently formed in Dallas. Over a decade and hundreds of practice hours later, Chang is now leading his own four-person team.

When explaining the logistics of curling, Chang is quick to relate the game to other sports. The skip—the position Chang primarily plays—is like a quarterback on a football team, calling plays and yelling directions to teammates. Games are divided into what are called “ends,” like baseball’s innings or bowling’s frames. It’s easy to pick up, he says, but it takes time to get good—much like golf. “It only takes about an hour to learn, but a lifetime to perfect,” Chang said.

And he’s counting on it. Curling doesn’t cause the wear and tear that is commonplace in high-impact sports, so Chang can continue his hobby of choice long into the later part of his life. “Hopefully it’s something that I can keep doing for many more years to come,” he said.

How does curling help you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
It’s a good escape to be out on the ice and not worry for a few hours about anything else. I am usually the skip on my weeknight team, so there is a great deal of strategizing involved in deciding what shots to call, recognizing how the ice is playing, and anticipating what your opponent may try next. So even though our league is pretty social, you still have to maintain your focus during the whole game if you want to do well. Another benefit of being the skip is that I get to yell at my teammates to sweep or not sweep, which is a great outlet and stress-reliever after a busy day at the office.

What is a common misconception about curling?
People who see curling on TV think it’s not really a sport. After all, curling involves brooms and sweeping and looks like shuffleboard on ice. It doesn’t take very long to learn the basics of how to throw a rock down the ice, but it takes a lot of practice to be able to make the rock do what you want it to do and for it to end up in the right place. Curling is actually more exhausting than it looks, especially if you are sweeping a lot during a game.

Georgia Akers and Cody Herbert
Chang keeps his focus during a tournament over Labor Day weekend in Houston. Photograph by David Franklin/Curling Club of Houston.

How long did it take you to feel confident in your skills?
It took a couple months of playing regularly in a weekly league in Toronto before I felt comfortable that I could make the shot that was called by my skip with some level of consistency. Luckily for me, I don’t think my Canadian teammates expected too much out of a newbie curler from Texas, so there wasn’t a whole lot of pressure from them.

What are the key qualities of a good curler?
In general, it’s helpful to have good balance, coordination, flexibility, and endurance. But the great thing about curling is that anyone can do it. Curlers come in all shapes and sizes, varying athletic ability, and all ages.

What effect does sweeping have on the stones that competitors throw?
The sweeping makes the rocks go farther and straighter down the ice. This is especially important if you need the rock to end in a particular spot or if you need the rock to hold the line so that it doesn’t curl too much.

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in giving it a try?
There are curling clubs in Dallas, Houston, and Austin, and all three conduct learn-to-curl sessions during the year. It only takes a couple of hours to learn the basics of throwing a rock, sweeping, and understanding the rules of the game, and you don’t need any special shoes or fancy equipment to start out.

Why is curling considered a social sport?
There is a custom in curling called broomstacking, where the teams will socialize with each other for a bit after a game, usually over a round of drinks. It’s a good way to get to know your opponents and to build some camaraderie within the club. On a broader level, the curling community in the U.S. is still relatively small. There are bonspiels, or tournaments, at curling clubs across the country year-round. Many of these are social gatherings and open to anyone who wants to play. I’ve met curlers from all over the country and Canada, and eventually, you see the same people, start connecting with them at events, and keep in touch with them through social media.TBJ

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