November 11, 2016

SKIMMING CREAM:

Inside the Lively World of Competitive Stone Skimming : Each fall, the world's greatest stone skimmers gather on a small Scottish island to try and outgun one another (Matt McDonald  Oct 17, 2016, OUTSIDE)

Fog shrouds Easdale Island, a windswept 62-acre chunk of slate, grass, and shrubs just off Scotland's west coast, as rain intensifies on the roof of the Puffer Bar and Restaurant. Four of Easdale's 60 residents guffaw over dominoes in the cramped dining area, and a fifth pours English-style IPAs behind the bar. Easdale is the smallest permanently inhabited island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago of Scotland, but its population is about to swell. The coming hordes descend not for whisky tours, mountain biking, or Highland games. They come for stone skimming.

Every fall for 20 years, Easdale has hosted the World Stone Skimming Championships. Originally dreamed up in a bar as a wee bit of fun, the event now draws 350 skimmers and a couple hundred more spectators. Proceeds keep the island's community hall, harbor, and museum running. Most competitors hail from Scotland, but others travel from Wales, Britain, the Netherlands, the United States--even Hong Kong and India.

This September, I decided to join them. At the pub, I hand an IPA to Hans Eshuies, a Holland-based landscape architect who's become a regular at the competition. In May, he participated with other elite skimmers in a Wales competition to determine an official stone-skip distance record for the Guinness Book of World Records. Englishman Paul Crabtree, a former stone-skimming champion, enters the bar. "Maybe Dougie's car broke down," he says.

Dougie Isaacs, a delivery driver from central Scotland, is the perennial champion. He's won this event seven out of the past 12 years and set the official world record for longest stone skip--351 feet--at the Guinness book toss-off. Eshuies describes Isaacs as a mystery man who arrives quietly and makes stones whoosh audibly when he throws them. He arrives quietly at sunset in a worn commando jacket, bantering with the ferry operators, and keeps a low profile. Year after year, Isaacs awes spectators and other skimmers. But everyone wants to see him challenged.

Posted by at November 11, 2016 12:00 AM

  

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