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Articles Blog

The Australian Boomerang

Karyn Planett

From Tacky Souvenir to Legitimate Sport

For many a world traveler, a genuine Aboriginal boomerang is the perfect memento of the visit to old Down Under Australia—it’s rather unique, packs easily, plus it won’t set off the airports’ bells, whistles, and metal detectors.  But for some souvenir hounds, the bloom comes off immediately after rifling through the luggage upon reaching home.  Attempts to show off for the neighbors by actually throwing this nifty boomerang have resulted in everything from a disappointing and perhaps final flight path; damage to structures or unwary pets; or, most grievously, a perfect throw resulting in injury or death for the thrower.  It’s just about this time when most people realize that boomeranging is not a child’s game but rather a serious sport not to be trifled with.  In fact, the risk-averse novice may want to learn a bit more about these potentially lethal chochkies before actually owning one.

Origin of the Species

The throwing stick has, for the record, been around since the time of ancient Egypt but it was the Australian Aborigines who raised this weapon to an art form.  The oldest boomerang ever found has been carbon dated to about ten thousand years old.  In fact, the word evolved from the Aboriginal “Boomori.”  Good to know should you appear sometime on “The Weakest Link.”

According to Aboriginal legend, the earliest known use was to create day and night.  A couple of lads with boomerangs managed to kill Bila, the sun woman, and the whole world suddenly went dark.  Immediately realizing their bonehead mistake, the deadly duo started throwing their boomerangs in all directions until one of them actually did something right by aiming it toward the east, and a great fire ball rose up, swept across the sky and set gently in the west.  Bingo (not an Aboriginal word)!  Day and Night created.  End of story.

Types of Boomerangs

While the returning boomerang is the most famous, it’s really just for show since if it actually managed to hit anything it would, ahem, drop like a stone.  The hunting boomerang isn’t designed to return, but meant to smack the sense out of a bird or a kangaroo or a wombat.  The club boomerang, on the other hand, is designed to knock the daylights out of the other guy with a boomerang in his hand and mayhem on his mind.  The hook boomerang is a truly fearsome weapon for hand-to-hand combat.  It is crafted to stick in an enemy’s shield causing the handle to flip over and split the other guy’s skull open.  Don’t buy that one!

For really showing off, there are the “alphabet” boomerangs.  A “U” shape one has a short, accurate return flight pattern; an “X” shape one just looks pretty in the air; and a “Y” shape one is for trick throws and crowd pleasers much like a throwing knife if you can get the point to stick into something.

Accessorizing Your Boomerang

Of course, no sport is complete without a distinctive “outfit” or “kit.”  It is reliably reported that Nike is working on a boomerang shoe, due in shops next year, and is hurriedly signing up national teams in anticipation of boomeranging becoming an Olympic demonstration sport.  Until then, the committed “boomer ranger” will have to make do with cool Aboriginal gear like the dilly bag, the nulla nulla, and the woomera.  These can be obtained via the Internet with the logo of your favorite professional team.

Throwing and, More Importantly, Catching

Select a very large, preferably grassy, area.  Throw your boomerang at a 45-degree angle to the wind and never throw in breezes above five miles per hour.  Hold the boomerang at either end with the flat side against your palm, tip in the middle, using the thumb and first three fingers.  Throw straight forward, in a vertical position, from above the shoulder.

The boomerang will return in a horizontal position, which is where you’ll find yourself if you aren’t in the ready position.  Hold your hands open, palms together, like a book.  Catch with both hands following the flight path, to the side of the body.  Avoid trying to catch at head level.  If it looks like the boomerang might hit you, turn your back, bend over, cover your head, then live to try another throw.

Boomerang Milestones

  • For those new to the sport, a few stats will give you some goals to shoot for.  And that will be just about all you’d ever like to know on the subject.
  • Consecutive two-handed catches: 801, Stephane Marquerite, France, 1989.
  • Out and return distance: 134.2 meters, Jim Youngblood, USA, 1989.
  • Flight duration: 2 minutes 59.94 sec., Denis Joyce, USA, 1989. (The three-minute barrier is yet to be cracked!)
  • Consecutive catches in five minutes: 73, Matthiew Weber, Switzerland, 1991.
  • Consecutive catches, two boomerangs, keeping one aloft at all times: 207, Michael Girvin, USA.