Summer’s here – time for skipping stones across the water. Every child should learn to throw a stone in a smooth, gliding arc so that it ricochets across the surface of a lake or the still ocean.
Do you remember how your heart seemed to pause as you counted each hop of a rock you tossed toward the horizon? I spent hours and hours of my Irish childhood summers skimming stones off Ireland’s west coast. Lovely memories remain to this very day.
And so today, I’m going to share a little secret. I know a corner of the world where the beaches and rocky shoreline overflow with flat, oval stones, just perfect for hopping on the water.
But first, let’s explore the art of skipping stones a little further.
Gravity-conquering rocks must be chosen with care.
The best shape is a flat, oval stone, but not one that is perfectly shaped. A little notch on the edge is best.
I like when the stone fits neatly into the crook of my pointer finger (index finger is what we say in Ireland).
Balancing the stone in the web between my thumb and pointer finger, I like to bend my other fingers beneath the stone.
Examining the stones laid out above, I would choose the top left to throw first. That shape looks like a perfect bouncer – not too heavy and not too light.
And the very, very best type of stone for skimming is none other than slate. It’s just the perfect weight for gliding across the surface.
Just examine the picture below – that’s what I call a stone skipper’s paradise.
There are hundreds and thousands of perfectly flat stones just begging to be skipped across the ocean.
And where might these stone skipping shores lie?
They lie along the beaches of West Cork, my stone skipping practice grounds of youth.
This is where I honed my stone throwing skills.
No electronic devices in my childhood days, just hours of watching stones bouncing blissfully out to sea. And even the inevitable Irish rain didn’t deter us from our stone throwing.
Stone skimming may seem like a trivial skill to many, but rest assured it has inspired physicists for generations and even inspired engineers to create water skipping bombs.
I even learned there is a world record holder for skipping stones. Believe it or not, it stands at 88 skips and was set by Kurt Steiner of the USA in 2013. Wow! And my record stands at 10. I’ve a long way to go.
The key to a good throw is all in the wrist, not just the speed of the arm as you might think.
A little snap of the wrist as the stone is released parallel to the water is vital. This creates a spin which helps the stone defy gravity a little longer.
For anyone interested in truly perfecting their stone skipping skills, I found this article all about the physics of skipping stones. It’s science, not just child’s play.
Watching a stone hopping, skipping, and jumping effortlessly across the water is one of the true joys of summer.
Do you remember the feeling of exhilaration as you watched a stone going for a spin across the water?
In West Cork it’s lovely to experience the satisfaction of a well-cast stone hopping toward America, shining in the glow of the sun setting across a calm Atlantic ocean.
And so I hope this summer, your days will be filled with simple joys, like watching stones skipping across the water.
And should you find yourself in West Cork, my favorite place on earth, then don’t forget to toss a stone into the Atlantic for me.
Happy summer to all.