The Infamous Underwater Shuffleboard Tournament

Once upon a time, a shuffleboard tournament was played in one of the most peculiar places. The location, aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt back in 1959. How could something this awesome, this grand be orchestrated? Sol Lipkin, the Promoter of Shuffleboard who is widely accepted as one of the most influential individuals in the history of the game.

USS Theodore Roosevelt - Underwater Shuffleboard Tournament

The first ever underwater shuffleboard tournament was played aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt Submarine. Images via NavSource.org.

Sol Lipkin – Promoter of Shuffleboard

Sol Lipkin was one of the original pioneers of the game. If you’ve ever thrown a shot, you owe special thanks to this man. Sol initially began as a shuffleboard salesman for the American Shuffleboard Company, leading the company to becoming the industry standard just as shuffleboard was beginning to catch on.

For his dedication to the proliferation of the game, Sol was inducted into the National Shuffleboard Hall of Fame in May of 1996. Awarded the honorary title of “Promoter of the Game,” Mr. Lipkin is the only individual to be inducted who is not a shuffleboard player.

Sol Lipkin

Sol Lipkin at NASC 2006. Img via eShuffleboard.

To understand his contributions to the game, you have to take into consideration the era in which he sparked an interest in this table game. Sol began selling shuffleboard tables in a time where they were only seen in a few churches and a handful of upscale hotels. He played a key role in negotiating terms at local bars to help spread interest in the game. One of his greatest feats was getting a shuffleboard table place in the Recreation Center of the United States Pentagon!

Many say that Sol is the reason that the game is what it is today. He organized the first tournaments and you can even say he wrote the book. Sol literally helped write the American Shuffleboard Rule Book. The story at hand, however, is how he managed to organize an underwater shuffleboard tournament aboard a commissioned US Naval Submarine.

Underwater Shuffleboard Tournament Aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt

Underwater Shuffleboard Tournament Aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt

Underwater Shuffleboard Tournament aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

As the story goes, the Chaplain of the USS Theodore contacted Sol in 1959 with a very unique proposition. He wanted to install a shuffleboard table inside a Polaris Submarine to allow friendly competition that would boost the spirits of his crew. Much in the same way that shuffleboard tables increase productivity in the modern workplace, this table was meant to bring people together.

After careful consideration, a shuffleboard table was installed down the hatch on a torpedo rack. It gave sailors something to do while they were away at sea for long periods of time. I know that all of this other stuff is just gibberish, the important part we want to know is who won!

The final game paired a Naval Captain and Lieutenant against two crewmen. It’s a 21 point game with the score tied at 20. One of the crewmen throws a shot that barely passes the short foul line. The Captain is now tasked with an easy shot but hold on, this is underwater shuffleboard remember! If you can believe it, the sub actually tilted just as the Captain leaned in to make the game winning shot. Gutter! The two crewmen went in for easy picking and won the first ever underwater shuffleboard tournament!

Naval Shuffleboard Tournament

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