A stone skimming across the water
Stone skipping in slow motion

Stone skipping and stone skimming are considered related but distinct activities: both refer to the art of throwing a flat stone across the water in such a way (usually sidearm) that it bounces off the surface. The objective of "skipping" is to see how many times a stone can bounce before it sinks into the water; the objective of "skimming" is to see how far a bouncing stone can travel across the water before it sinks into the water. In Japan, the practice is referred to as Mizu Kiri, which loosely translates to "water cutting". In Mizu Kiri contests, both skimming and skipping principles, as well as a throw's overall aesthetic quality, are taken into account to determine the winners.


People skipping stones in Haast, New Zealand

The act of skipping stones was mentioned by Marcus Minucius Felix in his dialogue Octavius, in which he described children playing a game on the beach.[1] Greek scholar Julius Pollux also noted the game in Onomastikon.[2] Among the first documented evidence of stone skipping as a sport was in England, where it was described as "Ducks and Drakes" in 1583.[3] An early explanation of the physics of stone-skipping was provided by Lazzaro Spallanzani in the 18th century.[4][5]


The world record for the number of skips, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is 88, by Kurt "Mountain Man" Steiner. The cast was achieved on September 6, 2013, at Red Bridge in the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania.[6] The previous record was 65 skips, by Max Steiner (no relation), set at Riverfront Park, Franklin, Pennsylvania. Before him, the record was 51 skips, set by Russell Byars on July 19, 2007, skipping at the same location.[7] Kurt Steiner also held the world record between 2002 and 2007 with a throw of 40 skips, achieved in competition in Franklin, PA.

The Guinness World Record for the furthest distance skimmed using natural stone stands at 121.8m for men, established by Dougie Isaacs (Scotland), and 52.5m for women, thrown by Nina Luginbuhl (Switzerland). These records were made on 28 May 2018 at Abernant Lake, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, Wales.

There are several stone skimming championships held. The record for most World Championship wins also sits with Dougie Isaacs (Scotland), with 8 Men's World Stone Skimming Championship wins (2005, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) and the Women's World Stone Skimming Championship wins record sits with Lucy Wood (England) with 5 wins (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018).


The "Big Four" American stone skipping contests include (in order of establishment and participant rankings):

  1. The Mackinac Island championship, held on July 4 in northern Michigan (entry by invite only; must win prior Mackinac Open or Pennsylvania Qualifier to enter);
  2. The Pennsylvania championship, held usually the 3rd Saturday of August in Franklin, PA, about one hour southeast of Erie (winners invited to the subsequent Michigan contest);
  3. The Vermont championship (about one month after Pennsylvania) on the shore of Lake Paran, North of Bennington; and
  4. The Great Southern championship in Arkansas (Labor Day weekend).

Former world champion Coleman-McGhee founded the North American Stone Skipping Association (NASSA) in 1989 in Driftwood, Texas. NASSA-sanctioned world championships were held from 1989 through 1992[citation needed] in Wimberley, Texas. The next official NASSA World Championship is expected to be held at Platja d'en Ros beach in Cadaqués, Catalonia, Spain.[citation needed].

A stone skimming championship takes place every year in Easdale, Scotland, where relative distance counts as opposed to the number of skips, as tends to be the case outside of the US.[8] The event was run for more than 20 years by Donald Melville, who is seen as having done more for the sport than anyone.[9] Since 1997, competitors from all over the world have taken part in the World Stone Skimming Championships (WSSC) in a disused water-filled quarry on Easdale Island using sea-worn Easdale slate of maximum 3" diameter.[10] Each participant gets three throws and the stone must bounce/skip at least twice to count (i.e. 3 water touches minimum).[11]. The event featured in the 2019 BBC Scotland documentary Sink or Skim.[12] The WSSC for 2020-2022 were cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. The next is scheduled for Sept 2023.

Other domestic distance-based championships in the UK are currently the Welsh and British, but they were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 for reasons including the COVID-19 pandemic. The British is next due to be held in 2023. Japan holds competitions where both skimming and skipping principles, as well as a throw's overall aesthetic quality, are taken into account to determine the winners. At present, there is also a competition at Ermatingen in Switzerland and occasionally in the Netherlands (both skimming/distance-based).

Men's World Skimming Championship winners by year

2020, 2021 and 2022 Championships cancelled due to aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

2019 Péter Szép Hungary
2017 Keisuke Hashimoto Japan
2016 Dougie Isaacs Scotland
2012 Ron Long Wales
2011 Dougie Isaacs Scotland
2009 David Gee England
2008 Eric Robertson Scotland
2007 Dougie Isaacs
2006 Tony Kynn Australia
2005 Dougie Isaacs Scotland
2004 Andrew McKinna
2003 Ian Brown
2002 Alastair Judkins New Zealand
2001 Iain MacGregor Australia
2000 Scott Finnie Scotland
1999 Ian Shellcock England
1997 Ian Sherriff New Zealand
1993 David Rhys-Jones, Matthew Burnham, Jonathan Ford Joint winners

Women's World Skimming Championship winners by year

2020, 2021 and 2022 Championships cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2019 Christina Bowen-Bravery UK
2018 Lucy Wood England
2017 Nina Luginbuhl Switzerland
2016 Lucy Wood England
2014 Helen Mannion Scotland
2013 Lucy Wood England
2011 Joanne Giannandrea Scotland
2010 Manuela Kniebusch Germany
2009 Tessa Pirie Scotland
2008 Jillian Hunter Northern Ireland
1997 Cara Crosby United States

Underlying physics

Diagram of a stone skipping

Although stone skipping occurs at the air-water interface, surface tension has very little to do with the physics of stone-skipping.[4] Instead, the stones are a flying wing akin to a planing boat or Frisbee, generating lift from a body angled upwards and a high horizontal speed.[5]

The same physical effects apply to a stone when traveling in air or water. However, the force only compares to gravity when immersed in water, because the latter fluid has higher density. The result is a characteristic bouncing or skipping motion, in which a series of extremely brief collisions with the water appear to support the stone.[13][14]

During each collision, the stone's horizontal velocity is approximately constant and its vertical motion can be approximated as a non-Hookean spring. The stone is only partially immersed, and lift from the immersed back suspends the stone and torques it towards tumbling. That torque is stabilized by the gyroscope effect: the stone-skipper imparts a perpendicular initial angular momentum much larger than the collisional impulse, so that the latter induces only a small precession in the axis of rotation.[15]

Stones improperly oriented at the moment of collision will not rebound: the largest observed angle of attack preceding a rebound occurred at an angle of approximately 45°. Conversely, a stone making angle 20° with the water's surface may rebound even at relatively low velocities, as well as minimizing the time and energy spent in the following collision.[16]

In principle, a stone can skip arbitrarily-long distances, given a sufficiently high initial speed and rotation.[14][15] Each collision saps an approximately constant kinetic energy from the stone (a dynamical equation equivalent to Coulomb friction), as well as imparting an approximately constant angular impulse.[15][17] Experiments suggest that initial angular momentum's stabilizing effect limits most stones: even "long-lived" throws still have high translational velocities when they finally sink.[17]


In popular culture

The lead character of the 2001 film Amélie skips stones along the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris as a plot point,[25] and picks up good skipping stones when she spots them.

See also


  1. ^ Marcus Minucius Felix: Octavius (cap. 3). Latin, English
  2. ^ Wilhelm Dindorf (ed.): Julii Pollucis Onomasticon. Leipzig 1824, archive.org, p. 191 (section 9,119)
  3. ^ Skipping stone secrets launch maximum spin. ABC Science (2010-11-02). Retrieved 2022-10-02.
  4. ^ a b  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Spallanzani, Lazaro". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 592–593.
  5. ^ a b Pascal, Molly. "Kerplunks, pitty-pats and skronkers: The world of competitive rock-skipping". Perspective. Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Most skips of a skimming stone".
  7. ^ Silver, Jonathan D. (30 September 2007). "A stone's throw and then some to a Guinness record". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  8. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - Scotland - Scots dominate in stone skimming". news.bbc.co.uk. 25 September 2005.
  9. ^ "The Times - Record books just a stone's throw away". 18 October 2023.
  10. ^ "World Stone Skimming Championships 2007". www.scotlandontv.tv. Archived from the original on 23 October 2008.
  11. ^ "World Stone Skimming Championships, Easdale Island". www.stoneskimming.com. Archived from the original on 13 December 2017.
  12. ^ "Melt the Fly – Sink or Skim". www.meltthefly.com. Retrieved 10 July 2023.
  13. ^ "The science and art of stone skipping". SurferToday. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  14. ^ a b Hewitt, I. J.; Balmforth, N. J. & McElwaine, J. N. (2011). "Continual Skipping on Water". J. Fluid Mech. 669: 328–353. Bibcode:2011JFM...669..328H. doi:10.1017/S0022112010005057. S2CID 6102984.
  15. ^ a b c Bocquet, Lydéric (2003). "The physics of stone skipping". American Journal of Physics. 71 (2): 150–155. arXiv:physics/0210015. Bibcode:2003AmJPh..71..150B. doi:10.1119/1.1519232. S2CID 11432407.
  16. ^ Rosellini et al. 2005; also summarized in Hersen, Fabien; Clanet, Christophe & Bocquet, Lydéric (January 2004). "Secrets of successful stone-skipping". Nature. 427 (6969): 29. Bibcode:2004Natur.427...29C. doi:10.1038/427029a. PMID 14702075. S2CID 4373833.

    Both texts state that rebounds are impossible beyond 45°. The plots of viable impact angles and initial velocities include a rebound around 53°, but do not explain the discrepancy.

  17. ^ a b Rosellini, Lionel; Hersen, Fabien; Clanet, Christophe & Bocquet, Lydéric (2005). "Skipping Stones". J. Fluid Mech. 543. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press: 137–146. Bibcode:2005JFM...543..137R. doi:10.1017/S0022112005006373. S2CID 209359309.
  18. ^ "SKLIFF 4. To make (a flat stone) skip over water Dictionary of the Scots Language"
  19. ^ "Scots dominate in stone skimming" - BBC News, 25 September 2005
  20. ^ The Secrets of Stone Skipping, Coleman-McGhee, 1996, ISBN 1-883856-01-9
  21. ^ Český jazykový atlas 1 (Czech Language Atlas 1), Academia, Prague, 2004, pp. 110–113, (dělat) žabky
  22. ^ "Ορισμοί του χρήστη: σφυρίζων - slang.gr". Archived from the original on 3 August 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  23. ^ Leite de Vasconcellos, José (1882). Tradições populares de Portugal. Porto: Livraria portuense de Clavel & ca. p. 76.
  24. ^ Vieyra, Antonio (1860). A Dictionary of the English and Portuguese Languages: In Two Parts, English and Portuguese, and Portuguese and English, Volume 1. london: Luke Hansard. p. 142.
  25. ^ The Guardian review, 15 August 2001

Further reading