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A boomerang is traditionally a piece of wood that is carved and twisted so that, when it is thrown correctly, it returns to the thrower. Boomerangs most likely evolved from throwing sticks that were used to hunt animals. Throwing sticks for hunting weigh over 1 kilogram and are between 0.5 and 1.5 meters in length. They usually are shaped like a banana. They have a very shallow angle from 140 to 170 degrees. Throwing sticks are thrown nearly parallel with the ground. Flights of over 100 meters are possible, with the throwing stick spinning between 1 and 2 meters off the ground. When they hit prey, the animal is stunned or has a limb broken by the high tip speed and angular momentum.

Throwing sticks made with a tighter angle or incorrect twist would precess. The stick would climb rapidly when thrown parallel with the ground. When these sticks were thrown closer to vertical, the stick would fly back to the thrower.

There is evidence that many cultures around the world used both throwing sticks and boomerangs in ancient history. King Tut's tomb contained a boomerang. Throwing sticks have been found in peat bogs in Northern Europe and were used in North America. The rest of the world later moved on to archery, and the only returning boomerangs were kept in use by the natives of Australia.

Modern boomerangs

Modern boomerangs are made from wood, aircraft-grade plywood, plastic, and composite materials. Most are thrown overhand with a slight angle off of vertical. The type of boomerang determines the nature of the throw. Most weigh between 15 and 150 grams, and are 10 to 30 cm tip to tip.

Boomerangs are used for recreation and for competition. Boomerangs for recreational throwing are designed for light to average throwing strengths and slow returns for easy catching. Competition boomerangs are designed for specific events and weather conditions, and generally require hard throws. For events that require speed, the boomerangs return quickly.

Regional, national and international competitions started in the 1970s and led to the formation of the International Federation of Boomerang Associations. A World Cup competition is held every 2 years, and features both team and individual competitions. The location rotates between continents with national boomerang associations hosting the events.

Individual events include: Distance - Thrown from behind a line the boomerang travels out, and then must return over that line between two end poles. The current world record is 238 meters measured from the throwing line to the furthest point the boomerang traveled before returning.

Fast catch - Throw and get 5 catches as quickly as possible. The throws must be made within a 2 meter radius ring, and must fly out of a concentric 20 meter ring to be valid. A fast pace is 2.1 seconds of flight time, followed by a 1 second catch and throw. The world record is 14.6 seconds.

Endurance - The same as fast catch, but the thrower has 5 minutes to make the throws. A boomerang thrown within the 5 minutes but caught a second or two after the 5 minutes counts. The world record is 81 catches.

Accuracy - Thrown from the center of a bullseye, the boomerang must cross the 20 meter line and return. The boomerang is not caught. The place it comes to rest determines the score. Originally this event consisted of 5 throws, but as some people achieved perfect scores, the international competition now requires 10 throws. The worlds record is 99 out of a possible 100 points.

Maximum Time Aloft - This competition features light-weight boomerangs that are thrown to great heights and slowly come down like maple seeds. In the 100 meter version of this event, the boomerang is thrown and caught within a 100 m diameter circle. The world record is 1 minute 44.87 seconds. In the unlimited version of this event, the boomerang needs to be thrown and caught with the timing judges watching. The world record is 3 minutes and 10 seconds. When there is a thermal on the field, many well-thrown MTA boomerangs are lifted up out of sight.

Trick catch/doubling - Each thrower uses one boomerang and makes ten specific catches. Then the thrower uses 2 boomerangs thrown together, and makes those ten specific catches again. Each catch has a point value:

   2 points: Left and Right-hand clean
   3 points: Two-hand-behind-the-back and Two-hand-under-the-leg.
   4 points: Eagle Catch.
   6 points: Foot Hacky and Tunnel catch.
   7 points: One-hand-under-the-leg and One-hand-behind-the-back.
   10 points: Foot Catch.

A perfect round is 100 points, and if you catch a perfect round, you throw the same rotation of single and double catches until you fail to make the required catch. The world record is 390 points - 3 perfect rounds, followed by an almost perfect round where the thrower dropped the foot catch on the Eagle/Foot Catch doubling throw.

Australian Round - Combination of distance points, accuracy points and catching points. The maximum points are achieved by throwing over 50 meters (6 points) + caught (4 points) + catch or boomerang lands in the 2 meter radius bullseye (10 points) = 20 points. Each thrower gets 5 throws. The world record is 99 points - on catching one throw, the thrower had a foot on the bullseye line - 9 points.

For more information, visit the following web sites:

  • International competition: [1]