The term “skipping stones” probably conjures up childhood memories of playing barefoot by the shores of the lake or slow-moving summer afternoons on the cottage dock. But tossing rocks can be much more than a carefree pastime. For professional stone skippers, it’s a highly specialized skill that requires careful precision and perfect technique. The world record throw resulted in an impressive 51 skips across the surface of the water! So, the next time you find yourself with a stone-in-hand, these six steps could have you competing with the pros (or at least impressing your neighbours).
Selecting the spot
The perfect setting for a successful stone skip is a calm body of water on a clear, still day. Your stones will skitter across the surface, unimpeded by wind or waves. Lakes and ponds are generally the best choice, since oceans are too unpredictable. If you do find yourself facing a wilder water surface, use heavier stones that are strong enough to cut through the waves without getting knocked off course. If you are dealing with waves, make sure you aim your stones parallel to the waves, as opposed to directly into them.
Choosing the perfect stone
You want to look for a thin, flat stone about the size of your palm, preferably oval or triangular in shape. It should be fairly light, but still heavy enough for a strong, accurate throw. Smooth rocks soar better but they can also be difficult to grip so try to find one with a small bump you can place your finger on. The ideal stone will curve with the shape of your hand. If you can find them, shale rocks are a great option.
Getting your grip down
Hold the stone parallel to the ground with your index finger curled around the edge, your middle finger resting on one flat side, and your thumb on the other. Your grip should be very light so that when you release the stone it will slide right through your fingers.
Assuming the stance
Turn sideways and face the water with whichever arm you’re not using. Your legs should be shoulder-width apart. Squat down slightly and adjust your throwing hand so that the angle between the stone and the water is about 20 degrees. Scientific studies have pinpointed that as the sweet spot for stone skipping. Any more than 20 degrees and you’ll encounter friction when you throw. Any less and your stone is in danger of sinking upon impact.
Bend and snap
Bend your wrist all the way back to generate power (like winding up for a softball pitch) and then snap it forward, releasing your stone with your palm facing upward. As your wrist flicks forward, the stone should slide right through your thumb and middle finger as the index finger sends it spinning. The bend and snap should be a very fast, fluid motion. The speed of the snap determines the speed of the stone. But pay close attention to your form and don’t sacrifice accuracy.
Don’t halt your throwing motion when the stone leaves your hand. Extend your arm across your chest to the shoulder of your other arm. Much like a proper tennis swing, you need to follow through to maintain proper force and power.