Under water bowling is no joke!

Underwater lanes

Matt Schuman, (Bio) schuman@greeleytrib.com
December 16, 2003

GILCREST – Cindy Shrout of Greeley has been a bowler since she was 9 or 10, but never before has she bowled at a place quite like the one she did Saturday night – at the bottom of the Valley High School swimming pool.
That’s right, Shrout, 48, was bowling under water, and so were her friends, who are members of the Banana Skin Divers Club. The area scuba divers club includes divers from all over the state and is run through Greeley’s Tortuga Bay, 3820 W. 10th St., a store that sells scuba diving equipment.
The bowling tournament was part of a charity event sponsored by the club. The entry fee was an unwrapped toy to give to the Greeley police officers’ toy drive. Those participating would put on their scuba gear and dive to the bottom of the pool. They would lay down and roll a ball down the hill going into the deep end of the pool where a set of glow-in-the-dark pins sat at the bottom. Each bowler could roll three balls per frame instead of the usual two, and each bowler rolled only four frames instead of the usual 10. Participants had to keep their ball between lines in the pool that served as markers for gutter balls, and they had to stay behind a line at the top of the pool that served as a foul line.

The setup presented some challenges for the bowlers, who had limited vision of the pins and had to deal with trying to roll a ball in water.
“I thought current might have some effect on it, nah. I was equally bad on every throw,” Shrout joked.
Actually, Shrout said the currents in the water would push the ball “4 inches on either side of the line depending on the enthusiasm you put into it.”
Still, seeing the ball was one of the biggest challenges.
“You could see the pins and you could see the silhouette of the ball, but it was dark enough when all the lights were out that you had a difficult time seeing where the ball was going,” Shrout said.
It certainly was a challenge that Shrout never experienced at a real bowling center.
“This was a totally different breed of bowling,” Shrout said. “I think professional bowlers would be challenged with this opportunity.”
That may be an understatement. It was even a challenge for the organizers of the event, who had never done underwater bowling before and had never seen it done. That meant tournament organizers such as Tortuga Bay general manager Jeremy Bland and tournament director Starr Hudson had to figure out how to put such a unique event together.

The first challenge was to figure out what to use as bowling pins. They had to be able to stand up in the water and glow so that the divers could see them. So, organizers took some clear liter-sized bottles and filled them with water and sand and put a glow stick in each pin so it could be seen. Then organizers had to decide what kind of balls to use. They thought a bowling ball would be too big and might damage the pool. So, they used boccie balls, which are smaller but still heavy enough so they won’t float. If that wasn’t enough, organizers also had to find a way to hold the pins together until each person was ready to bowl. So, Bland developed a triangular rack made of metal, similar to those used in pool, to hold the pins in place until the divers were ready to bowl. They even devised an underwater scoreboard.

“The only thing we’re missing is the noise, Hudson said. “Next year, we’re going to record a bowling alley and we’re going to play bowling alley sounds for everyone who is spectating.”
While it is the first time the group has tried underwater bowling, it is not the first time the group has tried some unique underwater events. Two months ago, the group had a golf ball hunt at Pelican Lakes in Windsor. The person who recovered the most balls won a prize. The group recovered 400 golf balls in an hour despite diving in freezing-cold water and mud that made it difficult to see.
“The water was about 12-13 feet deep, but there was about 8 inches of mud, so by the time you plunged your hand in for that first golf ball, there was zero visibility, so it was Braille diving, basically, for golf balls,” Hudson said.

Each April, the group also sponsors its big fund-raising event, aquabatics. Aquabatics is a series of five different games done in a pool that are meant to test the basic skills of each diver. The games include unusual events such as a buoyancy contest where divers must throw a dart-like object called a “toy-pedo” through different-sized weighted hoops and also swim through the hoops.
“We just have some really creative people in our group,” Hudson said.
Of course, none of the events may be quite as creative or as fun as underwater bowling.
Eaton’s John Brethauer, 36, said he’d love to do it again next year.
“It was goofy, but it was a lot of fun, and it’s just a good excuse for us to get out in the pool and play and maintain our skills,” Brethauer said. “That’s really what it is all about, to keep practicing and wait for the warm water so we can hit the Caribbean.”
Bland, who served as the referee and pin setter, said the group is anxious to try it again next year. He said the biggest challenge was getting the pins to stay down once they were knocked over and having a scoreboard all the divers could read. Next year, he expects to have all the kinks worked. Until then, all the participants will work on their skills and strategy for next year’s event. “Strategy?” Shrout said. “Mine was to stay underwater and not to get a gutter.”


Results from the Banana Skin Divers scuba club underwater bowling tournament held Saturday at the Valley High School swimming pool in Gilcrest. Each participant rolled four frames of three balls each.

1. Craig Laufert, 74, two spares and only strike
2. John Brethauer, 67, four spares
3. Cindy Shrout, 57, three spares
4. Ed Maple, 51, two spares
5. Scott Ziebell, 49, two spares
6. Kim Eden, 6, rolled one frame

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