How to Skip a Stone: An Illustrated Guide

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 11, 2013 · 15 Comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills, Visual Guides

1. Pick the right stone: flat, uniform thickness/thinness, fits in your palm, and no heavier than a tennis ball. Too heavy and the rock won’t skip off the water.  2. Hold the stone between your thumb and middle finger, with your thumb on top, and your index finger hooked along the edge.  3. Stand facing the water at a slight angle. With rock in hand, pull your arm back like you’re going to throw a sidearm pitch.  4. As you throw the rock, cock your wrist back. Right before the release, give your wrist a quick flick. This will create the spin needed for the stone to skip across the water.  5. Throw out and down at the same time. For maximum skips, the stone should enter the water at a 20 degree angle. Scientists have found this to be the optimal angle for stone skipping!  6. Have fun skipping stones with your kiddos!

Skipping a stone is a fun way to wile away the time on a camping trip or picnic. It’s something every uncle and dad should know how to teach and pass on to the kiddos. If you never learned how, here’s your tutorial.

Illustration by Ted Slampyak

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe June 11, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Do you have a source for the 20 degree thing? I’d love to read that.

2 Vincent June 11, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Ha, I was just wondering about this over the weekend while I was up in Mt. Sequoia. Wish I had seen this before because this definitely would have came in handy.

3 CJN June 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Sometimes I like to use the largest stones possible. They may not go far, but it’s amazing how large a rock can be made to skip.

4 Steve June 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Harmless fun and really quite demanding until you get the hang of it, you’ll observe, if you’ve ever tried to teach an adult to do it, particularly women of a certain age who never learned to throw and catch when they were girls. It’s not instinctive at all, but a learned skill, which you will quickly remember if you try doing it with your off hand.

5 Steve June 11, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Also can’t help feeling sorry for kids brought up in, let’s say, desert environments where there are no lakes, ponds and streams. Scorpion skipping can’t be anywhere near as much fun.

6 Willy June 11, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Backhand as large as a dinner-plate, skip,skip,skid…..
Shale or slate work well.

7 Gary S. Baker June 11, 2013 at 10:33 pm

I usually use this technique, but I have also had some encouraging results throwing in a backhand fashion.

8 Steve June 12, 2013 at 7:36 am

Brett and Kate, you are the best! Thanks for another great month of manliness. And to you Ted, thanks for the awesome illustrations.
This is still the best site on the web!

9 Lior June 12, 2013 at 7:49 am

“Scientists have found this to be the optimal angle for stone skipping”

Yeah science!

10 tkh June 12, 2013 at 9:21 am

Knew that Brett, I loved to skip stones as a lad.
Where I lived the stones where flat so it was easy to learn. Dad showed me how. They were from hard rock but where I live now I only have limestone rocks to skim, still, they sort of work.

11 Gregory June 12, 2013 at 9:53 am

Just be careful not to hit a swimmer with those rocks…

12 Brian June 12, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Skipping stones is helpful when learning to throw a golf disc forehand as well. Overlapping talents! ;)

13 jeff_williams June 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I can’t help but think of the opening scene to Speed Zone while reading this article.

14 caroline July 30, 2013 at 9:42 pm

This is so well done. I’m linking to it in my list of FREE THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS. Thank you!

15 Gerardo November 8, 2013 at 8:43 pm

In fact, all stones can skip, no matter size, shape, or weight, the trick is: Angle and aceleration. Stone is too spheric? use a smaller angle and greater speed. stone is too heavy? pack those arms up and rush the stone in to the wather with the smallest angle possible!!

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