Debbie Tagliareni pushes a disc during a couples night at the Briny Breezes shuffleboard courts. Players score by landing discs in the marked areas and knocking out those of the opponents. Stephen Moore/The Coastal Star
By Stephen Moore
With the popularity in shuffleboard among the older generation falling nationwide, according to some surveys, the Briny Breezes Shuffleboard Club is getting a shot of energy and players this year, thanks to a Boynton Beach construction project.
According to a 2016 survey on After55.com, only 2 percent of 700 seniors surveyed thought of shuffleboard as their favorite activity. But don’t mention that to the Briny Breezes shuffleboarders.
This club is healthy and anticipating another challenging season with the influx of 15 new members from the Boynton Beach Shuffleboard Club.
When the city of Boynton Beach began a $500 million downtown construction project last summer, the 16 shuffleboard courts and small clubhouse became expendable — quickly.
“I had heard through word of mouth that this was coming,” said Frank Lamb, who was president of the club. “In April we were told to vacate and we played our last game on June 15.
“Were we surprised? No. Shuffleboard [in Boynton Beach] had been deteriorating for the past eight, nine years. After the 2004 hurricane damaged some city buildings, they kicked us out of our shuffleboard building so other city agencies could use it. We were told we could use only half of our courts. And then they gave the building to a theater group and we had no bathrooms, no water. It was like we didn’t exist.”
Briny Breezes to the rescue.
“They had nowhere to go,” said Rich Curtis, president of the Briny Breezes Shuffleboard Club. “So we went through our corporation and asked the board if they could come here to practice and play. They have been good friends with us for years. And besides, some of them are very good players.”
Lamb, who began playing shuffleboard in 1991, and “15 or so” of his fellow Boynton Beach players now have a first-class court a few miles away to call their shuffleboard home.
“We talked to Rich and he and the Briny Breezes administration worked it out so we could be associate members,” Lamb said. “They have given us passes to park and it is not very far. We are very, very pleased that they could do this for us. They do make us feel welcome.”
And that welcome feeling goes both ways. According to Curtis, last year the Briny Breezes club had 150 active members. This year, 75 were already signed up as of last month but many players were still up North. The 15 new players from Boynton Beach will help the Briny Breezes club in quantity and quality.
“When you play with someone who is good,” said Ron Vaughn, who has been with the Briny Breezes Shuffleboard Club for seven years, “your game improves.”
And Briny Breezes is already good. The club just received authorization and funding from the Briny Breezes corporation to resurface six courts and is preparing for a busy season with weekly tournaments, fundraising events, couples leagues, a fun day and instructional lessons. Some players are aiming to compete in the state tournament in November.
The club houses three professional shuffleboard players — Lanny Farr, Curtis and Vaughn — who earned points in district and state tournaments over at least a two-year period. Curtis won the Southeast Coast District Masters tournament in 2017, and the clubhouse holds numerous plaques and trophies from tournaments as far back as 1958.
And if the sport can weather the popularity reduction of late, there may be a generation of shuffleboarders on the way. Bars catering to the GenX crowd are opening nationwide with multiple shuffleboard courts. In Richmond, Va., the Tang & Biscuit Shuffleboard Social Club bills itself as the largest indoor floor shuffleboard facility in the world — with 2,100 square feet and 10 full-sized regulation shuffleboard courts, as well as pingpong tables, cornhole, giant Jenga and Connect Four, and other board games.
The Royal Palms Shuffle-board clubs have opened establishments in New York and Chicago with 15-20 courts each.