Cover of Outside June issue. Stone skipping article on page 144.

magazine cover

Outside Magazine Article

How many times can a stone skip?
--Adrian McCloskey, Rapid City, South Dakota

Virtually every culture has a term for stone skipping. The English call it "ducks and drakes", to Danes, it's "smutting". Eskimos skip rocks on ice. Bedouins on smooth sand. Currently, The Guinness Book of World Records accords the title to Jerdone Coleman McGhee, a Texas engineer who in 1992 scored an incredible 38 skips on the Blanco River. Author of The SECRETS of Stone Skipping, McGhee has consulted with MIT engineering students, who've used strobe photography to analyze the fluid dynamics of a skip (which, by the way, involves releasing the stone almost parallel to the water, with enough velocity and spin to create a small wave on impact and then bounce off that wave and go airborne again.) McGhee's mark is not without controversy, however. Purists insist that skipping prowess undergoes its true test only in a sanctioned competition, when the heat is on. The grandaddy of all such skip-offs is held every Fourth of July on Michigan's Mackinac Island. It was here in 1977 that John Kolar earned the all-time Mackinac record of "24 plus-infinity" (his stone vanished ominously into fog after two dozen skips.) Kolar calls Mackinac, with its variable weather, boat traffic, and nearly constant chop, the "Wimbledon Centre Court of skipping - it quickly weeds out the competition". Indeed, when Jerdone McGhee made the pilgrimage to Mackinac, he was duly humbled by a score of only 17.

 

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