Learning to Throw a Boomerang

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jul 18, 2015

“If you want your boomerang to come back, first you’ve got to throw it.”
Steven Hall

Evie and I were browsing through a gift shop on the Skyline Drive in Virginia when I noticed a Channel Crafted Boomerang “hand crafted of the finest grade birch.” I immediately imagined being with Noah, our 12-year-old grandson, who was coming in a few weeks from Minnesota to visit us in Pennsylvania.

What fun it would be to learn to throw a boomerang together in the open field next to our house. I picked it up, glanced at the instructions and decided to buy it. 

A few weeks later Noah and I sat in the shade of a huge maple tree at the edge of that field. Slowly I opened the boomerang package and asked him to read the instructions. Next to the “Made in the USA” insignia were these qualifications, “For Ages 9–90.” I laughed out loud when Noah asked with a twinkle in his eye, “What if you’re 91? Does that mean you can’t use it?”

After reading the large label “Boomerang: Catch the Spirit,” Noah continued, “Long before man discovered mechanical flight he experienced aerodynamics first hand. The elements of his world were all he knew and his spirit flew with the advent of his dream.”

Both of us wanted to get up right away and try it out but we also knew we needed to understand how to fly it first. He read how Channel Crafted Boomerangs are designed for right-handers and left-handers. This mattered because Noah is left-handed and I am right-handed. Each of us must grip the boomerang differently. Left-handers release the boomerang clockwise, while right-handers release it counter-clockwise.

The angle of the release makes a huge difference but not as much as the need to throw it into the wind. There is no way to overpower the wind, so you must just work with it.

Noah also read a few “Always” instructions:
Always throw in open, grassy areas that are clear of trees, vehicles and people.
Always keep your eyes on the boomerang while it is in flight. Wind can cause it to change direction.
Always be courteous to anyone nearby because it can be unfamiliar and frightening.
Remember: Boomerangs are fun; however, they can be dangerous to persons or property.

As we were reading these instructions, we both realized you can’t learn how to throw a boomerang by sitting in the shade of a maple tree reading about it. The time had come for us to take it on its maiden voyage. And this grandfather knew it was his left-handed grandson who would launch it into the wind for the first time.

I wish I could tell you that our first efforts produced magnificent flights into the heavens with circular returns right at our feet. We both laughed at those first feeble attempts. One time we even had to retrieve it from high up in a tree.

But the more we tried, the more we watched that amazing piece of wood slice through the air and, to our surprise, come back around just as it was supposed to.  

Later I learned that boomerangs (a.k.a. ‘rangs) were historically used for hunting, as well as for sport and entertainment. They are commonly thought of as an Australian icon. The oldest Australian Aboriginal boomerangs are 10,000 years old. Even older sticks were discovered in Europe. Even King Tut, the famous Egyptian pharoah, owned a collection of them. 

Throwers compete in national and international tournaments. Events include everything from accuracy to endurance and from long distance to juggling. The Guinness World distance record is 1,401.5 feet held by David Schumny. There is even an organization called the United States Boomerang Association.

My boomerang now sits on a shelf in our garage. When I look at it, I always remember the day Noah and I learned to throw it.

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of  
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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