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A typical wooden returning boomerang

A typical wooden returning boomerang

A boomerang is a curved, usually wooden, device which is thrown. A boomerang spins as it flies through the air, and can travel long distances. A boomerang is designed to, when thrown correctly, fly in a curved path to return to the person who threw it.

'To boomerang' has entered English language, meaning akin to 'backfire' as in: 'this plan could very well boomerang on us'.


Boomerang-like devices, including hunting sticks, have been used all over the world for hunting, religious and recreational activities. Their origin is still not fully clear. Research has shown that ancient tribes in Europe used special throwing axes. Also, in ancient Egypt a special type of stick was exclusively used by the pharaohs for hunting birds. However, the world famous "country of the boomerang" is Australia, where the Australian Aborigines have used both boomerangs and hunting sticks for thousands of years.

Note that the word "boomerang" automatically implies it is returning; a hunting, or throwing, stick is a different thing, and the two terms should not be used interchangeably. There is little to no evidence that returning boomerangs were ever used as hunting tools!

Today, boomerangs are most often used as sporting items. There are different types of throwing contests—accuracy of return, aussie round, trick catch, maximum time aloft, fast catch, and endurance (See below). The modern sport boomerang (often referred to as a 'boom' or 'rang', is made of Finnish hardwood, plywood, plastic or composite materials and comes in many different shapes and colors. Most sport boomerangs weigh notably less than 100 grams, with maximum time aloft boomerangs often under 25 grams.

Competitions and Records

In international competition, a world cup is held every second year, with teams from Germany and the United States dominating international competition. The individual World Champion title was won in 2000, 2002 and 2004 by Swiss thrower Manuel Schütz.


In the U.S., most competitions are comprised of six standard events as follows:

Accuracy: Boomerangs are thrown from the center of a bullseye and points are awarded based on where they land. The scores from either five or ten throws are then added.

Aussie Round: Boomerangs are thrown from the center of a bullseye and points are awarded both for where they are caught within the bullseye and for how far they travel (up to 50 meters). The scores from five throws are added.

MTA: In MTA, or Maximum Time Aloft, boomerangs are thrown and must be caught within a 100 meter radius circle. Generally, times are added from the best three of five throws.

Trick Catch: A series of progressively difficult trick catches is made with one boomerang, then with two simultaneously.

Fast Catch: Five consecutive throws and catches are made from the center of the bullseye in the shortest amount of time possible.

Endurance: As many consecutive throws and catches are made from the center of the bullseye as possible within five minutes.

Other events are possible such as long distance, GLORP (similar to basketball's HORSE), or juggling among others.


Current world records are:

Accuracy: Thomas Stehrenberger of Switzerland in 2001 with 50 +18 points.

Aussie Round: John Anthony of the United States in 1995 with 95 points.

MTA: Eric Darnell of the United States in 1997 with 1'44.87".

Trick Catch: Manuel Schultz of Switzerland in 2004 with 390 points.

Fast Catch: Adam Ruhf of the United States in 1996 with 14.6".

Endurance: Yves Caze of France in 1998 with 80 catches.

Long Distance: Manuel Schultz of Switzerland with 238 meters.


A returning boomerang is a propeller. A falling boomerang starts spinning and most then fall in a spiral. When the boomerang is thrown with high spin, the wings produce lift. No one would think a spinning object flies a straight line, neither does the boomerang, it flies a turn or to be clearly: It flies on a circle. So it naturally returns to its starting point .. unless all spin is eaten up. Now in more detail:

Returning boomerangs consist of two, or more arms or wings, connected at an angle. Each wing is shaped as an airfoil, air travels faster over one surface of an airfoil than the other, as it follows the longer path, thus creating lift, along what is roughly a plane which intersects the airfoil at a near right angle along the long axis of the wing.

These wings are set so that the lift created by each wing opposes the lift of the other, but at an angle such that the flight pattern is constantly shifted as the forces of lift, drag, speed, rotational inertia etc. 'attempt' to reach equilibrium, see Boomerang engineer.

This is what makes the boomerang 'return gracefully to the hurler, fluttering to a stop in his hand'... when thrown correctly. This is also what makes the boomerang 'rocket straight up into the air before plunging to its shattered doom'... when thrown incorrectly. With the exception of long-distance boomerangs, they should not be thrown sidearm or like a frisbee, but rather almost vertically.

Fast Catch boomerangs usually have three symmetrical wings (in the planform view), whereas a Long Distance boomerang is most often shaped very similar to a question mark. Maximum Time Aloft boomerangs have one wing considerably longer than the other. This feature, along with carefully executed bends and twists in the wings, help to set up an 'auto-rotation' effect to maximize the boomerang's hover-time in descending from its highest point in the flight.

Prominent boomerang designer/builders include Bob Burwell from Australia, Rusty Harding from the USA, Jerri Leu from Brazil and others.


- There are many injected plastic molds in the world but the most famous and used are the Tri-Fly from Eric Darnell (USA) and the LMI&FOX Models (France).

- The boomerang sport in Brazil is growing fast with many news: special plywood created for boomerangs (BWoods), Kellogg's company inserting five million boomerangs in cereal boxes, and the First Pan-American Championship set for August 2005.

- The most famous seller in the world is "The Boomerang Man", Richard Harrison. Since 1975 he has introduced thousands of new throwers to the sport.

- The next World Championship will be held in Asahikawa, Japan, in 2006.

- While fiercely competitive, almost all throwers are amateurs in the sense that they do not receive money as prizes.

- The International Federation of Boomerang Associations (IFBA) was officially launched in 2004 at the World Championships in France.

Boomerang quotes

"Remember, you are the target!" a traditional warning to beginning hurlers.

Related terms

A Kylie is one of the Aboriginal words for the hunting stick used in warfare and for hunting animals. Instead of following a curved flight path, it flies in a straight line from the thrower. They are typically much larger than boomerangs. It can travel very long distances, and due to its size and hook shape can cripple or kill an animal. The word is perhaps an English corruption of a word meaning boomerang taken from one of the Western Desert languages, for example, the Warlpiri word karli.


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