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August 11, 2013

Local shuffleboard enthusiast builds his own regulation court

LAVALE — More than 10 years ago, Harold Barmoy found a sport that literally swept away all of his other hobbies.

When the LaVale resident and his late wife, Rae Ann, began spending the winter months in Florida, he was introduced to a sport that looked deceptively simple — shuffleboard.

    “I guess you could say that my infatuation began in 2000. When I first watched a match, I thought, ‘Well, that’s a no-brainer — you shove a disc down the court, big deal.’ Then I tried it and I realized just how difficult the game can be,” Barmoy explained. “The more I played, the more challenging it became. I was hooked.”

    Shuffleboard requires little equipment, but serious patience and concentration. The game is played using cues to slide discs down the 39-foot court into a triangular scoring zone. The space between making a great shot and losing points is a matter of inches.

    “Getting a perfectly round disc to go exactly where you want it is far more difficult than you may realize,” he explained.

    Barmoy began playing as often as possible and quickly rose through the ranks of the shuffleboard circuit —  transitioning from novice, to district amateur, to state amateur, and finally to the rank of professional.

After a few years of traveling back and forth between their Florida retreat and their LaVale home, the couple decided to return to the mountains permanently in 2005.

    “When we came back I soon realized the only thing I really missed about Florida was the shuffleboard,” he said with a laugh. “I started to do some research to find a club or even a court to play on and realized there was not a single regulation court in Maryland, so, I told my wife I was going to build one in our yard.”

    Barmoy carved an area out and built a 40-foot regulation court, using a plastic material that could withstand the weather of the region. After enduring rain and the inconvenience of dismantling the court for winter, he decided to expand on his original idea and enclosed the court, creating what he calls his “shuffleboard house.” Barmoy said he believes his court to be the only tournament-sized, enclosed court in the state.

    His shuffleboard house now boasts many amenities, including seating for competitors and guests, lights, heaters, fans and even a stereo system. Barmoy plays year-round and  invites friends and neighbors to stop by and learn more about the sport that had captivated his attention.

He said he hopes to dispel the myth that shuffleboard is a sport only played aboard cruises or in retirement communities.

    “It is actually a strenuous sport and in countries like Norway is is becoming very popular among young people. Younger people think it is an older person’s sport, but you really do get a work-out and most importantly it keeps you moving.”

Shuffleboard has a long and storied history, dating back to the 16th century, when it was a popular game among Britain’s royals. Official royal budgets recorded that King Henry VIII enjoyed wagering on his “shuffling” abilities, however the results were not always in his favor. The sport has evolved greatly over the centuries and there are several varieties of shuffleboard now enjoyed, including a table-top version.

In the 1800s, shuffleboard was a  popular activity on board ocean liners. Travelers soon brought the game to land and according to the Florida Shuffleboard Association, the first outdoor courts were built in Daytona in 1913. The sport has maintained its popularity in Florida, but Barmoy hopes the sport will soon “shuffle” its way into the hearts of Marylanders.

    He has maintained many of the friendships he established while in Florida, often returning to the Sunshine State for tournaments and events. In February, after competing in a tournament, he was surprised by an invitation to serve as a member of the U.S. Shuffleboard team. Barmoy and his teammates traveled to Norway in June to compete in the Norwegian Open Shuffleboard Tournament, competing against teams from Canada, Norway and Brazil.

    He placed 18th in a slate of 48 competitors over the course of the three-day tournament. He will again travel with the U.S. team in 2014 to India.

Barmoy said “shuffling” has truly transformed his life, introducing him to special people and places he may not have had the opportunity to enjoy otherwise.

    “Shuffleboard is a lot of fun. One minute you are standing beside your competitor and all you want to do is beat him, and then the match is over and you are standing with a new best friend.”

Barmoy is always eager to share his passion for shuffleboard and holds regular game nights and invites area residents to contact him to learn more about the game.

    “Call me and come watch a match. I have yet to have someone watch a match that didn’t want to play,” he added. “Once you try it, you are going to want to keep playing.”

    Barmoy can be reached at 301-729-0867.

Contact Angie Brant at

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