Shuffleboard Got It Going On!

I honestly thought they were kidding? Apparently it’s now the “in” thing to do in Florida.

As a big fan of retro, how could we resist our friend’s invitation to join them at the St. Petersburg Shuffle Club in the shadow of The Coliseum? As someone who’s fairly competitive, I had to do my research to know more.

The game is played on a rectangular surface with opponents standing on opposite ends. Each pushing his or her weighted disc (biscuit) to the other end using a cue (tang). How your disc lands within or on the selected areas indicated with a number (score) determines whether you gain or lose points. Games are played in frames (each side gets a turn) of 4, 6 or 8, or to a score of 75.

While St. Petersburg’s Club is the oldest club, Clearwater’s facility is a city park and home to the Clearwater Shuffleboard Club and the International Shuffleboard Association’s Hall of Fame, a perfect place to learn more. Surprisingly there’s an International Shuffleboard Association and within Florida there are seven districts and many tournaments. Clearwater’s season opens in October and play is from Sunday to Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; non-members pay $2.00 a day, although first timers are free. Club members provide instruction and equipment. Don’t worry about the heat of the day, as there’s a covered area on both sides for players and spectators, plus full-sun courts. Deemed “The best facility in the whole state,” if you want to take lessons one of the masters of the game, gives them starting in January for beginners and in February for those with intermediate skills.

With the basic rules and terms under my belt, we headed down to St. Pete for the free Friday night St. Pete Shuffle from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. This is a markedly different crowd here found among the city’s trademark green benches – younger and more families, which reminded me of a bowling alley crowd. The lights strung across the courts were reminiscent of Texas beer gardens. (More on that later).

While club members here can play anytime, posted hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (members are free; non-members pay $5.00 to play. They also organize a number of events to introduce the community to the game – bike rides and themed events.

So what do you do afterwards? We narrowed it down to two nearby craft brewers: the club’s event partners, Cycle Brewing, a few blocks away at 534 Central Avenue or Green Bench Brewing Company at 1133 Baum Ave. N., a little west of the club. We chose the later because of the outside beer garden and ordered Green Bench IPA all around.

As a sidebar, many hotels are dusting off their shuffleboard courts. If you’re serious about shuffleboard or want to take it home with you, visit Allen R. Shuffleboard Company in Seminole. They are a major supplier of equipment and courts.

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