How to throw a boomerang

The Basics

First of all, make sure you have a true returning boomerang. This, unfortunately, excludes the bulk of “boomerangs” available in Australia. If you mess up this step, the following will be much more difficult than it should be…

Any throwing should occur in an area appropriate for the type and range of boomerang being used. In some cases this could mean inside a gym or hall, but mostly this means outdoors, on a field with at least 50 metres in all directions around your throwing point. A cricket or footy ground is ideal.

Make sure you return to the centre point for each new throw. This is important for both safety reasons, and to help ensure you throw consistently (many can throw well; few can consistently throw well). If the area is being used by others, remember that the path of boomerangs is hard to predict by those not familiar with them.

If you have the option, avoid throwing in anything over moderate wind. Some boomerangs need a small amount of wind to return completely, but most do not. Rain generally has little effect on boomerangs in flight, but ensure any such boomerang has been sealed against moisture, and remember to dry your hand and the boomerang before each throw, to maintain your grip. And at the other end of the scale, don’t forget the sunscreen!

Time to Throw

OK, you’ve got a decent boomerang (left or right-handed, as appropriate), the weather is perfect, and you’re out on the field. What next?

As listed in the Glossary, there are five things you control during the throw, as summarised by the acronym WELSH:

Wind:

Direction of throw due to wind

You want to throw “around” the wind. If you’re a right-hander (lefties, you need to mirror what’s written here), this means throwing to the right of the wind, and having the boomerang return on your left side. The diagram below shows the effect of the direction thrown on the accuracy of the return.

Different boomerangs require different angles off the wind — start 45-50° to the right of the wind, and work from there. Generally, Fast Catch-style boomerangs will need to be thrown further off the wind, even at 90° or more, whereas some others, including many MTAs and Trick Catch boomerangs, are thrown more directly into the wind.

Elevation:

For the bulk of boomerangs, you should be releasing the boomerang at eye-height, and aiming approximately 10° above the ground. This means, typically, aiming at the top of the trees surrounding your field. Only a few boomerangs, including some MTAs and Trick Catch boomerangs, require you to throw notably upwards.

Layover:

Layover angle

Most boomerangs require only a little bit of layover (10-30°, between 12:00 and 1:00 for a right-hander facing a clock). Generally, the further a boomerang travels, the more it needs to be laid over. The extremes of this are Fast Catch boomerangs that might need slight negative layover (ie. tilting inwards, towards your head) and Distance boomerangs, which might be thrown almost flat (ie. with 90° of layover). The bulk of MTAs want no layover when throwing. Throwing a boomerang with too much layover can be dangerous to both the thrower and the boomerang, as the boomerang will climb high before crashing back down.

Spin:

Imparting spin to the departing boomerang is crucial. Without spin, a boomerang is just a bent stick. Creating enough spin is a common problem for novice throwers. Don’t “let go” of the boomerang; let it rip its way out of your hand. This will help maximise its initial spin. Another way to increase spin is to cock the boomerang back in your hand (see the picture at the bottom of this page — the thrower there has the boomerang well cocked back).

Hardness:

And finally, the one factor all machismo is focused on: how hard you throw. As a general rule: THIS IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS SPIN. There are obvious exceptions: you’ll never break a Fast Catch record without throwing hard.

When you make any throw, you should therefore be thinking of the five elements above: WELSH. If you can throw consistently, and then progressively alter one or more of these factors, you will be well on the way to being a good thrower.

But if none of that seemed to help, you might want to go to the my boomerang won’t come back page to see some common errors, and how to avoid them…

Art by Cheslye Larson, from ‘Boomerang: How to throw, catch, and make it’ by Benjamin Ruhe and Eric Darnell, 1985

4 Comments

  1. anonymous
    Posted 27 March 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    This is a great tutorial suitable for kid and adults. But are the steps the same for a tri bladed boomerang?

  2. David J Richardson
    Posted 27 March 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Multi-bladed boomerangs tend to make smaller circles (if you think about it, there’s one or more extra wings and therefore more lift to bring it back) but the throwing style is very much the same.

    Two of the more common tri-blader types are those used for Fast Catch and Trick Catch, and they’re thrown quite differently: generally you don’t want much layover at all when throwing a Fast Catch rang, and for Trick Catch you throw the boomerang notably higher than usual.

  3. Brock
    Posted 19 May 2015 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I have a boomerang that worked I got pretty accurate with in St. Louis . . however, after moving to Colorado where the air is thinner, I can’t seem to get it to make the full circle to me. Is there any tape or adjustment I can make to my rang to give it more lift and a quicker turn to return in thinner air?

  4. David J Richardson
    Posted 19 May 2015 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately it’s easier to add material to get more range — taking material away to get it back is more difficult, and permanent…

    Depending on the boomerang you may be able to simply get more of a return by throwing with a bit more layover.

    Another approach is to look at tuning (twisting of the arms). There’s two way to approach this: either you reduce the range out (e.g. by twisting positive angle of attack into the lead wing) or you increase the length it comes back (e.g. by adding some drag via a rubber band on the dingle/trailing wing, which will make the rang come in a bit straighter at the end instead of curling in front of you).

    If I’ve used too much jargon in the last paragraph, check the Glossary in the articles section of this website.

    For really detailed answers to questions like this, I strongly recommend tracking down the book ‘Performance Boomerangs’ by John Cross.

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