12438229469?profile=RESIZE_710xThe South East Coast District’s masters tournament brought dozens of players to the Briny Breezes courts. They included (l-r) Chuck Busscher, Briny Club; Jocelyne Vigneault, Park City Club; Dan Smith, Briny; Maurice Jacques, Park City, and Rich Curtis, Briny. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

Related: Along the Coast: Pickleball popularity is reshaping recreational offerings

By Ron Hayes

Pickleball is everywhere.

Except in Briny Breezes.

Residents of this 484-unit trailer town are blessed with a woodworking club, a boating club, a billiards club, a bingo club, a bridge club. We could go on.

But Briny Breezes has no pickleball club.

After all, who needs pickleball when your town’s unofficial official sport is shuffleboard?

“We have about 155 members,” boasts Deb Tagliareni.

That means about a quarter of the town’s 600-plus residents play shuffleboard.

Drop by most any evening and you’ll find them on the 14 shuffleboard lanes, sliding their discs down the court in hopes of landing in the 10-point scoring zone, or knocking an opponent’s disc out.

Drop by March 13-15 and you’d have found the South East Coast District’s masters tournament, with players from West Palm Beach to Davie playing 14 games in three days to crown the eight top-ranked players.

A retired elementary school teacher from Mexico, New York, Tagliareni, 73, arrived in town 11 years ago.

“A neighbor said, ‘You’re going with me tomorrow,’ and that’s how I started,” she recalled. “They took me around and helped me.”

Now she’s the club’s incoming president.

“It’s fun, it’s outdoors, it’s good exercise because you’re always moving, and it’s a lot better than sitting in front of the TV. Shuffleboard is what keeps us young around here.”

Shuffleboard is such an institution in town that some club members are second-generation players.

“I’m playing with my dad’s stick,” said Dan Smith, 62. “He passed away two years ago and I inherited the stick.

“Shuffleboard is much better than pickleball,” he explained. “There’s less injuries, and it’s something to do other than knitting.”

What those who disparage the game as an old geezers’ lazy pastime don’t understand is the strategy involved, players say. Pickleball may raise a bigger sweat, but shuffleboard works the brain more.

“It’s a more strategic game than I thought it would be,” said Greg Lougheed, 66, another second-generation player. “It’s more like pool. You’re blocking shots.”

Or trying to.

The club’s oldest member is Charles Hatfield, 93, who’s been playing since he was a mere 73.

“I tried pickleball a couple of times,” he says. “It’s more strenuous than you might think. But shuffleboard is a game old people can play. There’s competition and you meet new people. It gets you out and gets you moving.”

In 2017, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association of America counted 3,132,000 pickleball players in the U.S.

In 2022, it counted 8,900,000.

That’s an increase of 184%, with the number of players almost tripling in a mere five years.

And still tiny Briny has no pickleball club, though the town offers twice-a-week pickleball sessions in the town’s auditorium during the season. About a dozen players typically turn out.

Will there be outdoor courts for the sport?

“I hear there’s some talk of putting in a couple of pickleball courts,” Lougheed confided, “over in the empty space by the pool, where the dogs poop.”

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