Articles from Gel Boomerangs

Articles by Gel

  1. How to Throw In Wind
  2. Teach a Boomerang Throwing Class
  3. A Brief History of Boomerang Competitions
  4. Teach a Boomerang Making Class
  5. Make a Phenolic Boomerang
  6. The Game of GLORP
  7. Team GEL Philosophy
  8. Throwing and Tuning Tips — NEW ARTICLE!

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When I first started to throw, I would only go out on days when it was calm. I didn't think it was possible to throw with much success in windy conditions. Even the first couple of years that I went to tournaments, I didn't know how to throw in wind. It was not until I lived in the "windy city," Chicago, that I learned how to throw in wind. All it took to learn how to throw in wind, was to go out and throw in wind. It is possible to have success in windy conditions.

There are four basic ways to deal with wind:

  1. East throw, or "surfing throw"
  2. Humpback throw
  3. Drag producing additions that slow the boomerang down
  4. Adding weight

Surfing Throw
The simplest way to deal with wind is to throw your boomerang with less power. The key to this type of approach is to impart a lot of spin, by snapping your wrist, without providing a lot of forward velocity. The wind speed will supply most of the boomerangs velocity. Also, you must release the boomerang higher and with more layover than usual; this will prevent the boomerang from getting blown into the ground. In huge wind, throw your boomerang with 40 degrees altitude and 45 degrees layover with no forward velocity and tons of spin. Your boomerang will ride on the wind like a surfer rides on a wave. Although this is a spectacular way to deal with wind, it is the least effective of the four methods.

Humpback Throw
Throw with a vertical release, high altitude and hard throw! If you utilized this throw on a calm day, your boomerang would fly up high and then crash into the ground half way through its turn. But on a windy day the boomerang will not crash into the ground--the wind will save it from crashing and then push it back to you. The flight pattern goes from very high, to low, to medium high as it flies back to you. The reason this type of throw works is because the boomerang loses forward velocity as it tries to crash into the ground. Generally, in windy conditions, if you throw your boomerang more vertical and/or with a higher altitude, it will come back more accurately.

The most effective way to deal with wind is to add drag to your boomerangs. Drag will slow the boomerang down and prevent it from flying over and past your head. If you make your own boomerangs, you can drill holes into your boomerangs. The more holes, or the closer the holes are to the tips, the more drag you will have. If you don't make your own boomerangs, you can still drill holes in the boomerangs you have purchased. Leaving the leading edges dull on your boomerangs will also yield velocity reducing drag.

The most convenient way to add drag is to place taped flaps on your boomerangs. Duct tape or electrical tape will work fine. Wrap your boomerang with tape and fold the tape back onto itself in a small section so that you have a flat flap sticking straight up from the wing. The larger the flaps or the closer the flaps are to the tip the more drag. Every shape will react differently to flaps. So, you will have to experiment to see which location works best for your throw and boomerang. Generally, flaps near the center of the wing in the upper elbow area work best.

Adding weight, such as taping a coin to the wing, will cause your boomerang to travel further and it will help combat windy conditions. Start with a dime or penny taped to the flat side of the lift arm tip. In windy conditions, use larger coins or multiple coins. Again, you will have to experiment and find which spot works best for your boomerang and throwing style.

When throwing in wind it is helpful to understand that boomerangs don't come back very accurately. If you don't mind a little running, the rewards for a catch are great. And when you do flap, weight, or throw the boomerang just right, and it comes back accurately, it is very satisfying.

The key to learning how to throw in wind, is to go out and throw in wind! Simple as that. Try flaps, weights, humpbacks and surfing. The best solution is probably a combination of one or more these techniques. Try them all, experiment and have fun.

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Do you throw boomerangs and have no one to throw with? Do you want to spread your knowledge about boomerangs and teach others how to throw? Do you want to create a local boomerang scene that is fun and informative? If you answer yes to any of these, then you might want to start teaching a local drop-in boomerang class. Such a class can introduce many people to the fun and exciting sport of boomeranging. This is how I did it:

When I started throwing boomerangs in the Oakland area, in 1984, I was one of only two people who threw. This being the case, I decided to teach as many people about this sport as I could. I told everyone I knew that I would be at Strawberry Field every Saturday and Sunday at noon. I didn't reserve the field, the field just seemed to be free each weekend. People showed up, and I taught them how to throw. With only word of mouth promotion, I taught many people about the sport of boomeranging.

When I went to college at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, in 1985, I used the same word of mouth approach, at first, and I taught many people how to throw booms. I then approached the Recreation Department and Student Union with proposals for weekly boomerang classes and tournaments. They were hesitant at first, but we showed them literature on boomerangs, taught them how to throw and discussed safety. They gave us permits to use the fields for classes and tournaments. We posted announcements around school and town, talked about the weekly class on the school radio, arranged for articles to appear in the local papers and continued word of mouth promotion. We submitted proposals to the Student Union and they allocated funds to help us run our events. By the third year, we had the largest student group on campus. With a little persistent hard work we introduced many people to the sport of boomeranging.

When I arrived at the Chicago Art Institute, in 1988, I was well versed in how to get a weekly boom class going. I found a section of Grant Park that was free on Wednesdays and Fridays and started to talk up boomerangs to everyone I met. I put up flyers, wrote articles for the student paper and submitted proposals to the Student Union. The classes were successful and many new people learned about the joys of boomerang throwing. We even got a spot on a local television show called "Where's Wallace?".

When I moved back to Oakland, in 1991, I started meeting people at Billy Martin Field every Saturday. I put up flyers at local stores that sold boomerangs, contacted local papers which listed free events, and sent a proposal to the Oakland Parks and Recreation Department. One of the local stores had a connection at a local TV station, and the TV station did a report on boomerangs for their morning show; one of the local papers came out and did an article on the boom class; and the Recreation Department, after troublesome negotiations, did give us a free permit to use Billy Martin Field every Saturday. They still send us the permit for Billy Martin Field every three months.

In all three places that I have taught free weekly drop-in boomerang classes, many people learned about boomerangs. Many of them are still throwing today. The sport of boomeranging is still a sport in its infancy, and the best way to help the sport grow is at the grass roots level: just teach some friends, or some interested locals. Whether you meet at a field casually, or organize through the Recreation Department, it all helps the wonderful sport of boomeranging grow!

If not having enough boomerangs to hold a class is a problem, get out there and make a bunch, or phone Gel Boomerangs and ask for the club/class discount. And it does not matter if you hold a class once a week, or month, or only once in a while. The key is to get out and share your enjoyment of booms! Have fun teaching people about boomerangs. If it is fun for you to teach others how to throw booms, then it can be fun for them also. So get out there and teach people the joys of boomeranging!

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The contemporary sport of boomeranging started in 1969 in Washington D.C. when Ben Ruhe ran a boomerang making and throwing workshop at the Smithsonian Institute. The workshop was a huge success and by the late 1970s the event had evolved into a national championship for boomerang throwing. In 1979 the United States Boomerang Association was formed in order to standardize boomerang competitions and sanction events around the country. Events such as Accuracy, Consecutive Catch, Maximum Time Aloft, Australian Round (points for distance and accuracy), Fast Catch (fastest time to throw and catch five times) Endurance (most catches in five minutes), Doubling (throwing two with one hand) and Juggling (the number of consecutive catches with two boomerangs, keeping at least one boomerang aloft at all times) were standardized. With boomerang events standardized, the decade of the eighties saw boomerang designs and technology blossom, and international competition begin. In the 1990s boomerang designs and international competition have continued to improve. The USA National Boomerang Team has won eight of the ten World Championships held, including the 1994 World Championships that were held in Tokyo. Australia won in 1984 and Germany won in 1996.

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After all the years that I have been throwing, the greatest joy I have experienced with boomerangs happened the first day I threw out a boomerang, that I had crafted, and it came back. I had spent an hour and a half cutting and sanding my boomerang. When I was finished, I ran out of the workshop and down to the nearest clear area. I stood in the middle of intersecting train tracks and threw my stick out. It went out, then curved. And it came back. It came back to me. I didn't believe it, so I threw it again. It came back to me. It was an amazing feeling that I still remember vividly. It is that feeling that I can see in people's faces when I teach them how to make boomerangs. Since that first day, I have taught and continue to teach people how to make boomerangs. Teaching people how to make boomerangs is a great way to get new throwers involved in the sport. When new throwers throw a stick out that they have crafted, and it comes back, they love it. That love is the reason we all are involved with boomerangs. Boomerangs are magic. If throwers can make the magic, they are hooked.

So, it follows, that a great way to help our sport grow, is to teach people how to make boomerangs. The necessary prerequisite for a person to teach a boomerang making workshop, is the knowledge about how to make boomerangs.

If you have been making boomerangs for awhile and know how to diagnose and correct flight problems, you would be an appropriate person for the teaching position. If you don't know how to make boomerangs, but would like to learn how so you could teach a workshop, The book Boomerangs How To Throw, Catch and Make It by Ben Ruhe and Eric Darnell will help. You can find diagrams and notes about how to make boomerangs in this book. The book is out of print, but you can find this book at most libraries. If your local library does not have it, you should be able to get it through interlibrary loan. The most important area of knowledge for a boom workshop teacher to be familiar with is how to diagnose and correct flight problems. In this article it is difficult to give advice about how to correct non-returning flight patterns with corrective airfoil additions. It is difficult because different shapes require different types of corrective airfoil additions. Although, generally, I can say this about two arm boomerangs:

If your boomerang climbs too high and does not return all the way, or has an "S" flight, there is too much lift built into the lift arm (possibly too much undercut or bend in the lift arm). The corrective airfoil addition would be to carve undercut into the dingle arm (carving on the leading edge, flat side of the dingle arm), or, to remove some of the undercut from the leading edge, flat side of the lift arm by flattening out the leading edge.

If your boomerang curves without climbing high and crashes into the ground, there is too much lift built into the dingle arm (possibly too much undercut or bend in the dingle arm). The corrective airfoil addition would be to carve undercut into the lift arm (carving on the leading edge, flat side of the lift arm), or, to remove some of the undercut from the dingle arm by flattening out the leading edge.

In addition to the knowledge of boomerang making, you will need a location to accommodate a number of students, tools, materials, and a throwing area. A woodworking shop, large garage or a throwing field would be appropriate for teaching a workshop. For all three locations you need plenty of table space so people can work. In the case of a woodworking shop or garage, you would have to make the boomerangs, and then go to a field to test and correct the flights. In the case of the throwing field, you would have to bring tables out for people to work on, but no traveling is necessary to do the flight testing. A sheet of aircraft plywood will be more than enough wood to teach a workshop.

To find wood, phone around to your local wood suppliers, or consult the USBA wood source list. When buying wood, it will help to select a piece that is fairly flat, so as to avoid flight problems with the boomerangs. The best idea would be to cut a few blanks for each student. It would be smart to select a boomerang design that works well and is a proven flyer. If you use flat wood, and a proven design, you should not have many flight problems. The tools needed to teach a workshop are relatively simple. Files, clamps, sandpaper, and some sort of stain or paint. Power tools are not particularly feasible when teaching a number of people. They are expensive, injury potential to students is great, and power sources are cumbersome for on-field use. Clamps of any sort will do: standard "C" clamps or vise-grip "C" clamps will work for clamping the boomerangs to the table. Flat and round files in course and fine are the tools needed to do the rough sanding. 80, 150 and 220 grit sandpaper will smooth the boomerangs out. After flight testing is done, paint or stain can be applied to seal the boomerangs.

When designing the workshop, you will need to determine how many people you want to teach, and then arrange for the proper number of tools and equipment. For a class of ten people, you will need, approximately: 20-25 boomerang blanks; 7 each of flat and round course and fine files; 10 clamps; 10-15 pieces each of 80, 150 and 220 grit sand paper; stain or paint. The appropriate throwing area would be a large field with a section for making and a large section for people to test. The test area should be very large so that boomerangs can hit the ground and roll straight, or fly out of control (people are learning). Usually, reserving a field is done through the City Parks and Recreation Department.

The cost to run a workshop for ten people, tools and materials, is approximately $150.00. Charging a $10.00 to $15.00 per person fee is a bargain for the students. You will then have the tools paid for, and you can run future workshops. The files are the biggest expense. Look around for bargains. Maybe a friend has a pile of files in their basement? A proposal to the local Parks and Recreation department may prove fruitful. Parks and Recreation departments usually have access to local school woodworking shops. For on-field workshops, the Parks and Recreation Departments may provide tables and tools.

The above suggestions have worked for the boomerang making workshops that I have taught over the years. The idea is to spread the joy and magic of boomeranging. And there is no better way to share the boomerang bug than to teach throwers how to make the magic stick that, when you throw it out, comes back to you.

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Birch plywood is a common source material for crafting boomerangs. A less common material is phenolic. The boomerangs yielded from phenolic are fantastic flyers, the only drawback is that it is dangerous to work with.

Phenolic is a resin composite that is available in sheets of varying sizes and comes in three grades: paper phenolic, linen phenolic and canvas phenolic. I have crafted boomerangs with paper and linen phenolic. Currently I use only linen phenolic because it is a great deal stronger than paper phenolic and it holds hand bent tunes well. You can purchase sheets in varying thicknesses. 3/32" (0.094" or 2mm) phenolic works well for MTAs and 1/8" (0.125" or 3mm) phenolic works well for other boomerangs.

Phenolic can be purchased at plastic stores. You can find a full list of plastic stores under "plastic" in your phone book. If your local stores do not stock phenolic, or, there are no plastic stores in your area, you can go to the library and locate plastic sources in phone books for large cities. The most reliable source I have found is INTERSTATE PLASTICS in San Leandro, California. They will sell 2'x 4' sheets and larger at very reasonable prices and will ship UPS. You can contact them at 800-466-4341. Ask for Ilona.

The advantage with phenolic is that you can construct boomerangs that are thin and dense. The thinness helps the boomerangs handle wind. The density causes the boomerangs to travel a great distance. You can make MTAs that will travel higher than most wood MTAs, but they will also tend to descend faster than wood MTAs because of the density. You can also make distance boomerangs that are very accurate. Caution must be taken when making phenolic boomerangs.

You do not want to breathe, under any circumstance, the phenolic dust. I do not know what the physical/medical repercussions of breathing the dust are, but as my warehouse neighbor, Dave Grover, told me once, "it is like having acid and sandpaper in your lungs." There are ways to protect yourself. A respirator with a rubber face seal will prevent the airborne dust from being breathed. I use a 3M respirator: part #7200 Dual Cartridge Half-Mask Respirator Face Piece with #7286 Cartridge Holder, #7255 High Efficiency Filter, #7288 Retainer for High Efficiency Cartridge Filter. You can locate such 3M items at most paint stores, or look in the phone book under "safety equipment" for 3M retailers. You can also phone 3M at 800-243-4630. You will also need an appropriate dust collecting system that collects the dust as you produce it, such as you would find in most professional woodworking shops. Other methods of collecting and disposing of the dust can be used but are not as safe.

As far as tools are concerned, I have only constructed phenolic boomerangs with power tools. Hand tools such as coping saws, files, and sandpaper could be used, and in fact would be safer because the amount of dust generated would be considerably less.

Making phenolic boomerangs is an involved task, but the rewards can be great. Varying spectacular flights can be obtained with phenolic boomerangs and many of the competition boomerangs used today are made from phenolic. If you want thin, dense boomerangs that can attain great distances and return accurately, or boomerangs that hold hand-bent tunes well, phenolic is a great material to use.

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The Official History of Glorp by Chris Walcott

It all started sometime in 1991 with our band called Project 6. We rehearsed in an East Oakland, CA warehouse called "The Bindery". During breaks we would shoot hoops in an indoor court. The court was your basic backboard and hoop put up on a catwalk between two rooms in the main hallway. The game of choice was HORSE because of all the crazy shots that were possible in the room. In keeping with the mythology we created around the planet Glorp we decided to play the game using the letters GLORP instead of HORSE.

One day, we came in to rehearse and found that the backboard and hoop was gone. One of the residents got tired of midnight games and ripped it down. After we finished rehearsing, we headed out to Billy Martin field to throw booms.

Being the only ones out that day, we started practicing various freestyle catches. One of us (I can't remember who) suggested we play GLORP, boomerang style. We collectively made up the rules right there. The basic idea (which has evolved over time) is explained below.

Thoughts about G-L-O-R-P by Michael Gel Girvin

The game G-L-O-R-P was invented by Joe Miller, Dave Chavez and Chris Walcott, the band members of the rock band Project Six. They performed a song about the planet GLORP where aliens rode boomerangs instead of cars. One day, Joe, Dave and Chris taught me how to play. And I loved the spontaneous creativity of it so much that I then taught the game to the rest of the boomerang world, by running G-L-O-R-P at the National and the International tournaments and every other tournament I ever went to. Throwers saw the rad, creative elements and enjoyed playing.

Broadly defined, the significant essence of G-L-O-R-P, as an game and event, is that it allows complete creativity. It also was one of the first head-to-head games. With G-L-O-R-P, the dominator can do any throw or catch that the throwers imagination can think up, and that is the magic. Really amazing catches have been done: really hard catches such as foot hacky to knee hacky to fist hacky to head hacky to one-handed, or foot hacky to hand-plant head catch, or two feet on the ground Pink Flamingo; and really simple, beautiful catches such as over the head behind the back, and two feet on the ground one-handed clean. Sometimes you see flowing combinations, or graceful spinning catches, or gutsy flipping snags! And when the game narrows down to the last couple of "in the grove" throwers, who are sending catches back and forth without dropping, and the expected apex of catch difficulty is surpassed, then you see true spontaneous, creative radness. That's G-L-O-R-P.

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The facade called competition is an excuse to get together with other boomers and have a good experience where time seems to stop because you are there, in the present, catching your boom with friends. Any competition with rules and regulations that, supposedly, can determine who the "best" is, has the premise that there is a "best." But there is no "best." If a "best" is determined, that decision is purely subjective. As an example: one set of rules can say that whoever catches the most juggles is the "best," but at the exact same moment, another set of rules can say that whoever puts out the most effort trying to juggle is the "best." Both sets of rules are totally subjective. As a result of the world's wonderful subjectiveness, these rules are only a starting point that we can use to conduct an Event that is about friendship and fun in the sun. Some of the events listed below may seem too difficult for someone who is just learning, but the idea behind these Team Events is that the beginner throwers and the experienced throwers are on teams together so that the beginners are allowed to try all events; the beginners are not excluded. These rules and events are a compilation of rules taken from USBA Rules, World Cup Rules, Dijon Boo Club Rules and Team Gel Rules. The rules written here can change at any time if the context demands. Fun and Enjoyment are the determining contexts, as is the concept of "beginning boomerang throwers." The rules will always continually change.

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Last updated June 16, 2006.
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