Stone Skimming (Skipping): The Relaxing Pursuit of Legends

Some skimming stone pebbles under water
Pebbles!

Today we’re penning a homage to stone skimming. Why? Because there’s something a bit weirdly wondrous about the whole thing.

What’s Stone Skimming?

It’s where you get a flat stone and hurl it across some water. If done correctly, it’ll skip/skim over the surface as if hovering.

Skimming and skipping are thought of as similar, but slightly different. Most folks usually aim to skim stones.

There’s an example above from Scotland’s Dougie Isaacs. Kudos to the guy for wearing The Stone Roses t-shirt. We don’t normally associate the band with stone skimming, but we guess the name is apt enough.

Anyway, this activity is popular the world over. And it enjoys a variety of names. Including:

  • Japan: Mizu Kiri
  • Greece: Little frogs (βατραχάκι)
  • Bengali: Frog jumps (Bengbaji)
  • Finland: Throwing bread/a sandwich (heittää leipiä/voileipiä)
  • Italy: Rimbalzello
  • France: Faire des ricochets
  • Hungary: Making it to waddle or making it walk like a duck (kacsáztatás)
  • China: 打水漂 [da shui piao])
  • Russia: Frogs (лягушки [Lyagushki])
  • Sweden: Throwing a sandwich (kasta smörgås or kasta macka)

There’s also the North American Stone Skipping Association (NASSA—see what they did there?) in… wait for it… North America.

The world record number of skims is 88 (apparently it’s impossible to go over that—see further below), but that’s only under modern observation. Who knows what was going on in the past?

Having read Who Ate the First Oyster? recently, it makes us wonder who invented this game. And when?! It’s certainly been around a very long time.

And it’s something most people can enjoy. Simply find a stretch of liquid (preferably a calm lake), get a stone stone, and skim it across the expanse of water.

There’s a real knack to it. You have to get your wrist and fingers working in tandem. We can’t say we ever managed anything over 10 skips or so.

Thankfully, there are professionals around to make the rest of us look useless.

Stone Skimming World Championships

The venue is tucked away into a rather serene looking area of Scotland. It’s on Easdale Island near to Oban in Argyll.

The 2020 event is, of course, cancelled. It’ll return in September 2021. Want to take part? Here are the details from the World Stone Skimming Championship site.

"If you would like to compete just turn up as there are no qualifying rounds. The competition starts at 12 noon - get to the ferry early to avoid the queues!"

So, just get yourself to Scotland in 12 months time. However, get there early. Only 350 contestants can take part.

The event began in 1983 thanks to one Bertie Baker. However, it stopped for a while until Eilean Eisdeal got things skipping again in 1997.

Hungarian Peter Szep won in 2019 for the geezers—he won in 2018, too. For the ladies, Christina Bowen-Bravery took the 2019 title.

The best seem to manage over 40 metres (131 feet), which is pretty impressive.

It’s a difficult thing to get right. But when you nail it, you enter a different dimension entirely. Such as with this stone skimming genius.

This gentleman is an office worker from Japan and enjoys his Mizu Kiri.

He’s also on a different planet with his skills, it seems. Watch that stone! It pretty much walks on water.

The Science of Stone Skimming

18th century physiologist Lazzaro Spallanzani was one of the first to consider an explanation of the physics at play.

He reckons the stone creates lift by pushing water down as it moves along.

Physicist Lydéric Bocquet later determined a 20 degree angle is optimal for your stone skimming efforts.

But, yes, that world record of 88 skims doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Instead, you should aim for the length of your skim. How far can you make it go?!

So, you might want to take a protractor with you next time you go outside, find a lake, and indulge in this most chillaxed of physical endeavours.

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