“Skipping a stone might seem like a simple thing, but it’s actually this beautifully complex mix of skill, athleticism, and fascinating physics.” And in what might be one of the more comprehensive stone skipping videos ever, we learn how. With help from world record skipper Kurt Steiner, Wired’s Robbie Gonzalez improves his stone skipping. Steiner’s record: 88 times.
The only thing more astonishing than Steiner’s best all-time skip count is how much room there is for improvement. Theoretical models suggest that if somebody does set a new world record, it could be by a lot. Steiner’s throw tops out at around 50 miles per hour. (His world record skip was calculated at 43 mph.) But fluid dynamicist Tadd Truscott, head of the Splash Lab at Utah State University, says someone with the power of a Major League Baseball pitcher could sidearm a stone as fast as 93 mph, with a spin rate upwards of 3,000 revolutions per minute. “And if you can get there, you’re going to probably get close to 300, 350 skips,” Truscott says.
But that calculation is based on throwing “perfectly circular disk of uniform mass, skipping across a flat body of water,” and that’s not allowed in stone skipping competitions.
So what stones should you pick, what’s the best grip, and how do you throw for the best results? Find out and learn more about the fluid dynamics and physics of this lake-side pastime in the video above.