Written and Media by Brian Ehresman.[divide]
When passing by a lake, pond, or another body of water, it is pretty common to try and throw or skip rocks across it. It can be a fun (or sometimes frustrating) activity to take a break from a hike, or just to hang out with a friend. Most people do not know, however, that this seemingly only leisurely activity can also be an intense professional sport.
Stone skipping is a sport in which a flat stone is thrown across the water and bounced or “skipped” several times across the surface of it. The goal is to skip the stone across the surface as many times or as far as possible before it stops. The sport has grown and several competitions and leagues have been formed.
The North American Stone Skipping Association (NASSA) was founded in 1989 in Texas by Coleman McGhee. There have been four World Championships held in Texas since 1989. Competitors are required to bring their own six, flat stones, but the stones must be natural and unaltered. The next World Championships are scheduled to take place in Spain.
Another world stone skipping championship event is held in Easdale, Scotland. The competition started in 1997, and contestants use stones made from Easdale slate in the quarry of Easdale Island. Distance is measured in this competition instead of the number of skips across the surface. Most of the competitions outside of the United States measure the distance rather than the number of skips. Dougie Isaacs of Scotland won the championship in 2015, which earned him his seventh world title.
Another big stone-skipping competition takes place in northern Michigan at Mackinac Island. This event is not only for professionals but also for anyone who wants to try the sport. There are clinics and tournaments for amateurs and younger kids. The event culminates with a professional tournament on the third and final day. The event does a great job of raising awareness about the sport by including anyone who wants to be involved take part in the festival. There is an opening ceremony, and also a dinner the night before on the island. An awards ceremony is held after each tournament within the event. The website for the event also allows participants to share stories and memories from the competition and to connect with others who also participated. Overall, this competition does one of the best jobs in the United States of raising awareness for stone-skipping.
As odd as stone-skipping may sound for a professional sport, competitors still strive to be the best, as in any sport. There is not an official world record for the distance a stone has been skipped, but there have been recordings of the number of times a stone has skipped on the surface. Kurt Steiner skipped a stone 88 times in 2013 in the Allegheny National Forest. The previous record was 65 skips.
It may not require a ton of physical talent, but stone-skipping is a professional sport and gives many people a chance to compete at a high level across the world. With a little bit of practice and dedication, it could be just the sport for anyone whose athleticism has hit rock bottom.
Watch Steiner’s World Record Stone-Skip: