Sol Lipkin – “The Godfather of Shuffleboard”

Sol Lipkin was a champion of the shuffleboard industry. Through his endless years of service, he has fostered the growth of a nationwide shuffleboard community and his legend continues to live on today. Without Sol Lipkin, the sport would be nothing like it is today so with that said, we pay homage to the man who helped make this great game what it is today.

A Look at the Life of a Shuffleboard Legend

Sol Lipkin

Sol’s glowing smile.

On his 90th birthday, Sol was inducted into the National Shuffleboard Hall of Fame NSHF (now the TSA-Table Shuffleboard Association’s Hall of Fame) as “Promoter of the Game.” He was involved in the shuffleboard community for nearly 80 years after accepting a position with the National Shuffleboard Co. as a salesman back in the mid 1930’s.

Sol played an instrumental role in the growing popularity of shuffleboard throughout the 20th century. He traveled across the country, setting up new distributors and igniting interest. When he first started, hotels that catered to the wealthy and church organizations were the only place that shuffleboard tables were found. Ironically, this is how Sol himself was first introduced to shuffleboard.

Shuffleboard was popular on the East coast in the late 1800’s but was primarily a sport known among well-off families in New York. At this time, furniture makers like Duncan Phyfe made custom tables. The manufacturing of commercial shuffleboard tables (still hand-crafted) didn’t begin until the early 1930’s. Companies like Hudson, Venture, and C.L Bailey now make some of the best tables. In the beginning, shuffleboard tables were placed in taverns and pubs in hopes of attracting customers during the Great Depression. This is why shuffleboard tables are commonly associated with these types of establishments. Sol Lipkin was amid this trend. He would loan the tables out for a down payment and small monthly payments.

Sol Lipkin continued to be a “Promoter of the Game,” working with the American International Shuffleboard Corporation, formerly the American Shuffleboard Company. Sol facilitated the presence of shuffleboard tables in countless venues but he wasn’t just a “salesman.” He played an active role in the organization of many shuffleboard leagues as well. He even helped write the American Shuffleboard Book, one of the most widely referenced rule books to date.

Sol has been noted for his contribution to the advancement of the sport. Along with an honorary award being bestowed in his name, Sol received the Pioneer Award from Bill Moore of Texas and Shuffleboard Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Furthermore, Shuffleboard Federation established the Sol Lipkin Award which recognizes individuals who have made considerable contributions to shuffleboard.

Sol Organizes a Shuffleboard Table in One of the Most Unbelievable Places

Sol served in the military for a brief period in which he joined the Construction Battalions of the United States Navy during World War II. It is perhaps here we find the peculiar intersection between submarines and shuffleboard tournaments.

The Chaplain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt contacted Sol in 1959 asking if there was a way to install a shuffleboard inside a Polaris Submarine. You heard that right, a submarine. The table legs were cut down so that it could be installed on the steel structure of the ship’s torpedo rack. We don’t want to spoil what ended up happening. You can read all about the Underwater Shuffleboard Tournament here.

Underwater Shuffleboard Tournament USS Theodore Roosevelt

The Underwater Shuffleboard Tournament aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt Polaris Submarine.

Sol Lipkin Award

The Sol Lipkin Award is considered to be the highest honor that someone can be awarded. Nominations are not picked. Instead, recipients of this prestigious award are only chosen every few years. Below is a list of Sol Lipkin Award recipients since 1992.

Historical Recipients of the Sol Lipkin Award

These excerpts were taken from Shuffleboard Corner in hopes of honoring those who have achieved the Sol Lipkin Award.

Sol Lipkin, November 12, 1992

In appreciation for your promotion of the sport of shuffleboard and in recognition of more than sixty years of service. In the future, an award will be given to those who make extraordinary contributions to the advancement of the sport. It shall be known as the “Sol Lipkin Award.”

George Wilber and Donna Wilber, November 12, 1992

For providing the spark that began the resurgence of the sport and for helping maintain the momentum through your continued commitment, we proudly present the first Sol Lipkin Award in recognition of your extraordinary contributions to the advancement of shuffleboard.

Don Valk, November 13, 1993

For your tireless and unselfish efforts in promoting the sport and for the new standards of tournament excellence you helped to establish through the U.S. Open Shuffleboard Tournament. We proudly present the 1993 Sol Lipkin Award in recognition of your extraordinary contributions to the advancement of shuffleboard.

Bill Melton, November 1, 1996

For being one of our sports greatest players, and, realizing your responsibilities as such to give back to the game, and for never failing to do so, you are a champion in every sense of the word. We proudly present the 1996 Sol Lipkin Award in recognition of your extraordinary contributions to the advancement of shuffleboard.

Ron Bowers and Debbie Bowers, November 2000

Ron and Debbie were recognized for their hard work and dedication in maintaining the Bowers Rating System, which has expanded The World of Shuffleboard more than any other effort.

Hal Perry, November 2000

For your integrity as a player and promoter and your service in the Shuffleboard Federation’s Player Policy Board, State and National Halls of Fame.

Conclusion

Knowing who Sol Lipkin is and what he did is important to understanding and appreciating the game. Acknowledging those who helped make the game what it is today will keep their memory alive and well. So the next time you’re chatting it up, spark up a conversation about the great Sol Lipkin. Let’s not forget those who contributed tirelessly to this amazing sport we call shuffleboard.

More Shuffleboard History:

  1. The Infamous Underwater Shuffleboard Tournament
  2. Shuffleboard History
  3. San Francisco’s Shuffleboard Renaissance
  4. Where to Play Shuffleboard