Tabletop to the Deck
In the 1840s, shuffleboard made the leap from tavern tables to cruise liner decks. The Peninsular and Oriental Line challenged its recreation directors to come up with games that passengers could enjoy while onboard the ship. An innovative P & O employee developed a shuffleboard court. Coins were replaced with disks and long sticks were used to slide these weights. Scoring was determined by markings on the court.
The first on-shore shuffleboard courts were built at a Daytona Beach, Florida resort in 1913. This sparked the outdoor shuffleboard fad. Courts sprang up at resorts and retirement villages across the country. The most elaborate courts were built by the St. Petersburg, Florida, Shuffleboard Club. The club had 5,000 members who played on 110 courts (See photo). Spectators could watch the action from covered grandstands. Today, the club has 65 courts.
St. Petersburg became the center of the shuffleboard world. In 1924, the St. Petersburg Club established the rules that would become the standards of the game. The St. Petersburg Club was also the impetus behind the formation of the National Shuffleboard Association in 1929. Just two years later in 1931, the first national tournament was held. The first national shuffleboard tournament for women took place in 1932.
Shuffleboard courts spread across the country during the 1930s and 40s. The Works Projects Administration (WPA) built several shuffleboard courts on playgrounds.
The 1950s proved to be the heyday of shuffleboard. More than 100 companies were manufacturing shuffleboard equipment, and many of those companies sponsored tournaments for either tabletop or court shuffleboard. One tournament attracted 576 teams from all parts of the country.
The game began to decline in popularity during the 1960s. Part of the decline was the result of disputes between shuffleboard leagues. Another problem was the age of the players. Shuffleboard had never developed a strong youth program. Yet another part of the decline was the development of other forms of entertainment, particularly television and later video and computer games.
Shuffleboard continues to have a group of avid followers who have kept the sport alive. In 1979 the International Shuffleboard Association was founded in guess where? St. Petersburg, Florida. Six countries—the US, England, Canada, Australia, Brazil and Japan have national associations.
Shuffleboard has divided into two camps: the tabletop players and the court players. Both camps have their own leagues and organizations and both established halls of fame in the 1990s.