Geek Trivia

Which Of These Bowling Variants Is Extremely Popular In Eastern Canada And The New England Area?

The Bikini Derives Its Name From What Unlikely Source?

Answer: Candlepin

Bowling is bowling, no matter where you play, right? There are ten pins, shaped and weighted to official standards, and whether you’re playing in a modern, endorsed tournament or in the back of a smokey alley with a dive bar growing out the back, it’s more or less the same thing. Except, if you happen to find yourself on the east coast of Canada and the U.S.

While bowling has been almost completely standardized across North America for over a century, there is actually a hot bed of unique bowling (with some passionate adherents) found all along the eastern seaboard. You see, like many industries, there was an intense period of innovation and variety in the early days of bowling.

While tenpin bowling was standardized by the start of the 20th century, a wide variety of earlier bowling styles persisted in the oldest regions of the two countries. The most popular old-timey variation around is candlepin bowling, called such because the pins aren’t like the curvy, bottom-heavy pins found in tenpin bowling, but are instead cylindrical in shape with slightly tapered tops and bottoms.

The general premise and the lane design is nearly identical to the regular tenpin bowling you’re likely familiar with, but there are some variations beyond the design of the pins. Players use three balls per box (frame) instead of two and the balls are only 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) in diameter with no finger holes. The pins knocked down by the first and second balls put into play are not cleared away—there’s no manual or automated re-racking of the pins until the round is closed out with the third ball (unless the bowler gets a strike or spare, then the pins are cleared away and reset).

Given the size of the pins, the difficulty of clearing all of them when some of them are tumbled over and resting against each other, and the lighter, smaller bowling balls, it’s very difficult to achieve high scores on par with tenpin bowling. To date, the highest official score in candlepin bowling is a mere 245 out of 300 potential points.

Image courtesy of the International Candlepin Bowling Association.