It is an activity that almost all of us know – skimming stones on rivers, lochs, ponds and the sea – but on one day of the year it becomes a highly competitive event on the tiny island of Easdale.
Hundreds of people entered the World Stone Skimming Championships this year which dates back to 1983 and is now staged annually in a quarry on the tiny island of Easdale not far from Oban.
The event has become more prominent over the years attracting international attention in the form of an American documentary crew who were shooting a film about islands with no cars.
Rising numbers of competitors are also coming from abroad with both last year’s male and female winners travelling from overseas with Keisuke Hashimoto from Japan and Nina Luginbuhl from Switzerland.
The runners up across the different categories were from Hungary, England, Wales and Belgium.
This year’s event started on Saturday night with spectators and participants invited to come along to the Pre-skim Party at Easdale Island Community Hall.
There was “foot-stomping folk tunes” provided by provide Sheelanagig as well as a bar and a BBQ running in the evening.
The championships started the next morning at 10am with the numbers of entries now restricted to 350 due to the high demand of people wishing to become the world skimming champion.
The rules are fairly simple – all stones must be of naturally formed Easdale slate and be no more than three inches in diameter.
Each contestant gets three skims per session and the stone must bounce on the surface of the water no less than twice before being considered a valid skim.
The length of the skim will be judged to the point where the stone sinks into the water. The longest skim in each category will be deemed the winner.
There are a total of six main male and female categories adults – over 16, juniors – under 9 – 16, children – 9 and under, the “old tosser” for those above the age of 60, the team group and finally the Bertie – for the best Easdale Islander.
How it all began
The World Stone Skimming Championships goes back to 1983 when they were started by Bertie Baker.
Unfortunately, the event lay dormant for a several years before it was resurrected in 1997 by the Easdale Island Community Development Group.
Started simply as a fundraising event, the championships can now boast of being one of the most unusual events on the west coast.
It has grown in popularity to such an extent that it now attracts hundreds of spectators and the number of entrants has had to be restricted to 350.
Over the years the championship has featured in a whole host of print and television media as far away as Australia, and in some of the world’s most popular guide books.
Its darkest hour came in 2012 when it looked like the event would have to be cancelled because of a dispute with the landowner.
Jonathan Feigenbaum threatened to take legal action if the event took place without organiser paying a purported £1,000 fee for land use.
He also demanded that Eilean Eisdeal Community Trust provide him with a copy of its public liability insurance.
In the end the fee was paid by the Press and Journal newspaper and the event went ahead as normal.
Since then it has gone from strength to strength with more people coming to skim or watch the skimmers each year.