Duluth rock-skipping takes rightful place as greatest thing ever

With Duluth’s natural renewable bounty of perfect skipping rocks, the time is now to claim the mantle of one of the top rock-skipping destinations in the world. I propose a Duluth League that plays by its own rules, owing to our iconoclastic position as Outdoor Adventure Capital of the United States. Envision a day when Duluth’s rock-skipping force fans out over the globe to win championships and decimate festivals. Tomorrow (Saturday July 13, 2PM Leif Erikson Park) will usher in such an age. A Facebook comment about the contest said, “I remember a rock-skipping contest in Duluth in the 1950s.” It’s revealing of Duluth’s decades-long funk that this never blossomed into an annual contest, or festival, in the intervening 70 years. By comparison, look at what the Michiganders of Mackinac Island have going: they just had the 51st Annual Stone Skipping Competition and the Governor comes and skips the first stone. If Duluth had kept its 1950s contest going, we’d be ahead of Mackinac Island by 20 years…

There is also a North American Stone Skipping Association (NASSA), but it is based in Texas, something which should outrage the sensibilities of all right-thinking Duluthians. In addition, NASSA’s world championship will be held in Catalonia, Spain – a detail that says, “How North American is this really” – and should not a battle-hardened contingent of Duluthians storm the place and take their medals?

There is also a competition held in Franklin, Pennsylvania, which I note has an absence of Great Lakes, yet they have set world records there. It’s an irritant.

Easdale, Scotland has an annual competition which also sets records, the World Stone Skimming Championships. Outside of the U.S., rock-skipping contests measure total distance, instead of number of skips.

The People’s Free Rock-Skipping Contest will count both skips and distance, so there, fancy international tournaments. I have also added a height score, so if your rock catches major air (as some of my skips do I must modestly admit), then it adds to your total.

Adding a style component though is what really sets us apart. It says, “We are not joiners. We are skipping rocks at the edge of the world, on its lake most vast. Yes we want a lot of skips and so on, but for us, stuck in this labyrinth of beauty, this is about AESTHETICS not ATHLETICS. We walk these beaches our whole lives looking for beautiful rocks. We love them. Finding a perfect skipping stone, admiring it, and then skipping it as well as you can, is one of the greatest pleasures in life. We commit these rocks back to the sea from whence they came, and shall come again.”

Those rocks aren’t going to skip themselves people. Lake Superior made them for you, to learn how to let go. We love the stone in the palm of our hand. Perhaps it radiates warmth from the sun. It fits your hand just so, weird that things can be precisely perfect like that. But to complete the circle, you must feed the stone back to the lake.

So many perfect ones must be out there. I have found skipping stones on the shores of Lake Superior which I should have submitted to Natural History museums as Platonic ideals of form. Yet I saved none. You can almost hear them whisper their yearnings for the deep. It is very difficult to deny an amazing skipping rock as they beg to return to the water. “I will skip well for you…” And you cast them away to their destiny and it’s a little bit too bad because you kind of wanted to hold them — but they’re not holding stones. They’re skipping stones.

A few years ago at the Ledges I found an underwater skipping-stone graveyard. The weather had been calm, and at a certain general distance off shore, skipping stones had accumulated, widely scattered across a floor of basaltic rock under 10-15 feet of water. There was no other explanation, they were all palm-sized and flat. They must have been sucked into the deep shortly after. But it was a strange and moving sight, the archaeological record of an unrecognized culture of leisure. Who were these stone skippers? Was this stone skipped as a show of fitness for a prospective mate? Or was it skipped dejectedly by a lonely iconoclast? Or in children’s play. These scenarios have one thing in common: those stones need to be found and they must be skipped.

That’s why this contest is happening. I was down at Leif Erikson Park beach the other day and saw some of the most perfect skipping rocks I have ever seen, I practically wept. It was difficult to leave because I kept seeing another on the way out and would HAVE to go skip it…


Dylan Koltz-Hale

about 5 years ago

Beautiful piece Aquaman.

Jim Richardson

about 5 years ago

Thank you, citizen~

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