For a game which is now rapidly gaining popularity around the world, it could be said that shuffleboard has taken a remarkably long time to catch on!
Not many sports can trace their origins back as far as the 15th century when an early form known as shoveboard or shovelboard was played in the great houses of England. It was popular with the aristocracy who were perhaps the only people in those days who had the time for such frivolous pastimes. Other names included shovegroat, slidegroat and shovel-penny. Henry Vlll is reputed to have banned the sport among his archers for whom it was proving too much of a distraction. It would be interesting to know what these early players would have made of today's modern poly-courts.
The game survived through the ages until it began to appear on the decks of ocean liners; indeed many of today's cruise ships list shuffleboard amongst their on-board amenities. It finally found its natural home in Florida in the early 20th century with rules defined in St. Petersburg in 1924. Later the National Shuffleboard Association was founded there in 1931. Soon it was being played all over the States and became popular in Canada, probably due to its similarity to curling.
In more recent years the game has been taken up in Brazil, Japan, Australia, Germany and throughout Scandinavia. These countries now compete annually on an international basis.International events are now held every summer, with players travelling from around the world for a week of fun and friendly competition.
With the advent of the Poly and Roll-Out Courts, shuffleboard is set to gain much greater popularity in Europe where the climate does not always encourage outdoor play. As an indoor game it can be played in sports halls and community centres under absolutely ideal conditions and this is sure to increase its appeal.
An inaugural event held in Eastbourne in 2004 proved enormously popular. The courts shipped over for the event were all sold with the exception of one Poly-Court, which remains one of Eastbourne Council's "treasured possessions"!
The ISA hold a World Championship every year at a different location. In 2015 it will be on the historic courts at Clearwater and in 2016 at Saint Cloud, near Orlando, Florida.