Update: This blog has been updated to reflect information I received from many people on a product that has been around for years — I'd just never seen it unti last summer. Thanks to everyone for the help!
I’ve been a Storm staffer since 1996, so it should be pretty clear that if I heap praise on another company’s product there’s a good reason for it.
The Brunswick Slide Stone is such a product.
It’s the bowling equivalent of the greatest thing since sliced bread — at least when it comes to sticky approaches.
I was introduced to it last summer when I was bowling a PBA Regional in a center where the heat and humidity made the approaches so tacky I might as well have been bowling in tennis shoes.
Products like baby powder and EZ Slide are illegal, and for good reason as they impact other bowlers and can create a dangerous situation. (I will occasionally use some on my shoes to get rid of humidity but wipe it off before getting near the approach.)
Noticing my struggles in that Regional, Larry Richardson offered me the use of his Brunswick Slide Stone. I rubbed it on my hand and literally nothing came off. At least nothing I could see, although my hand felt smoother.
“How can this do anything?” I asked Larry, who smiled and told me to try it.
I rubbed it on my shoe and suddenly I could slide — not normally, but enough to bowl. (I went on to make match play in the tournament.)
Larry allowed me to keep the Slide Stone, helped me order more, and I have used it when necessary since.
One time was this year’s State Tournament minor events during our freak March heat wave that saw temperatures reach the 80s even in northern Wisconsin. I pulled my Slide Stone out as soon as I tried the approaches and before long all of my teammates were using it, too.
I have no idea how the Slide Stone works and don’t care. What I do know is that it leaves ZERO residue when simply rubbed on a hand or shoe, and therefore doesn’t violate USBC rules.
USBC Rule 12 is on page 22 here - Approaches Must Not Be Defaced
The application of any foreign substance on any part of the approach that detracts from the possibility of other players having normal conditions is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to talcum powder, pumice and resin on shoes, and/or soft rubber soles or heels that rub off on the approach.
12/1 One of the bowlers is having a difficult time sliding on the approach and applies a commercial product purchased at the center pro shop to the bottom of his/her shoes. The product is designed to help a bowler slide. The secretary says she has received a complaint from the opposing team and notifies the individual to stop using the substance or the game will be forfeited. Can an officer tell a bowler to stop using the substance and declare the game forfeited?
Commercial products, talcum powder or any substance applied to the shoe or approach could be in violation of Rule 12. If a league participant uses a substance and somebody complains that it prohibits him/her from having normal conditions, the league officer should require the individual to immediately stop his/her action. If the individual refuses, his/her games are subject to forfeiture.
Again, the Slide Stone leaves ZERO residue when simply rubbed on a hand or shoe, and therefore has no impact on other bowlers. A bowler using it must rub it on their shoe every shot for it to help, and must avoid walking around too much after rubbing it before their shot or the effect will be gone.
Because I’d never heard of the Slide Stone before last summer, I decided to send an email to USBC to make sure we could use it if necessary at the Open Championships in Baton Rouge.
Sadly, USBC email’d back that the ruling was that the Slide Stone was illegal for this year’s Open Championships because of the “foreign substance” part of Rule 12. (The ruling was just for the Open Championships, similar to the rule for the tournament that balls can’t be sanded once you go through the scale line, whereas USBC rules allow you to sand a ball until competition starts.)
When I pointed out that there was ZERO foreign substance, USBC’s reply was that there had been instances of the product being shaved off, which would create a substance that could impact other bowlers.
The Slide Stone is some sort of hard block on a piece of wood and I have no idea how one would shave it — it seems to me that it would chip off in chunks, as one time when it was dropped at State a chunk did come off the corner. That would present no more of a hazard than a pebble — see it and pick it up and throw it away.
Update: I received a lot of comments on the Slide Stone, which also is called the Soap Stone, and it appears that it has been around for a long time and that some people do shave it. I don't see why you would shave it as I have not found that to be necessary. And in that case, it's the shaving that should be illegal, not the Slide Stone, because it's the shaving that creates the foreign substance.
Here is what former long-time PBA player Bob Gudinas wrote on my Facebook page:
"This has been around in this form for at least ten years. I originally got it from a source in Las Vegas which glued soapstone on a block of wood shaped like a handle. I was selliing it in my pro shop for less than $5. The soapstone sticks found at hardware stores were used for marking lines on metal because it would not disappear when the object was heated. Tailors also used it for marking doing alterations. It has been around forever. It is a stone-like mineral composed mainly of compressed talc. That is why it may be deemed illegal. In a laboratory setting it may leave a miniscule amount of material on the surface a bowling shoe comes in contact with. I believe the amount of transfer from the shoe to the approach is miniscule. This is your Chemistry lesson for today."
To me, that makes the Slide Stone a far better and safer product than things like baby powder and EZ Slide — So long as it is not shaved.
As USBC’s Brian Lewis and Neil Stremmel told me when I was in Texas last week, rules can’t be changed in the middle of the Open Championships. That, of course, is the right way to handle things.
But I did give them a tutorial on what I know of the Slide Stone and contact information so they could get one to evaluate, which they promised to do.
Hopefully, the Slide Stone will be legal for the 2013 Open Championships.
In fact, USBC should want to make it legal for the tournament as it should make the use of truly dangerous products like baby powder and EZ Slide unnecessary, making enforcement of those rules less of an issue for tournament operators.
And, by the way, the rule shouldn’t matter for this year as I’ve not heard from one good bowler that the approaches at the Baton Rouge River Center are a problem.