Fun is good therapy

Brian Ferry

From Pennsylvania and Michigan to the British Isles and Japan, some people take their stone skipping very seriously.

Each year, dozens of competitors launch stones into the waters of French Creek and the Allegheny River in Franklin during the Rock in River Festival. That is the home of the Pennsylvania Stone Skipping Championship.

Last year, the competitors included world record holder Kurt Steiner, Dave Ohmer — formerly of Titusville — who, like Steiner, has won the event multiple times, Keisuke Hashimoto — Japanese champion and world champion stone skimmer (skipping for distance — championship held in Scotland), 30 or so others, and one Brian Ferry.

I’d like to win and be invited to Mackinac Island. I’d like to see one of my stones skitter gracefully toward that hillside far across the Allegheny like the best throws do. I’d like to top 40 skips.

I feel like I have a chance. I finished second once with a throw of 38 and won some fudge.

But, I don’t go because I expect to win. I’d like to, at least in part because of the fudge.

I go and compete and hang around for the day because it’s fun.

Some folks say skipping stones is good therapy.

I can see that. Fun is good therapy.

When I skip stones, usually I’m with my kids, outside, not in a hurry.

I’m thinking about gripping the stone, the water conditions, where that first impact should be, a whole set of ponderables that have nothing to do with what happened at work that week or whatever. I’m trying to replicate a set of motions to create an ideal throw and get that stone to just keep going.

Stone skipping could become a chore.

Steiner said he trained long and hard, even bulked up, for his 2013 world-record throw of 88 skips.

I generally dedicate a couple of days in the summer to gathering stones and getting some practice in.

Other than that, there’s nothing formal. I skip when I’m near water and see flat stones.

When I tell people that there is a stone skipping championship, they are often quite surprised. Most have been skipping for years and had no idea. Some think they’re pretty good. I used to think I was pretty good. Then I tried the water at Riverfront Park and I turned into an expert. There’s something about the water there.

If you think you’ve got what it takes — like Andy Severns from Tidioute who went for the first time last year and knocked out a 46 in the amateur division to qualify for the professional finals — head on down to Franklin’s Riverfront Park on Saturday, Aug17. The competitions are at 1 and 3 p.m.

And bring some stones. You’ll need at least six to compete — 12 if you plan to get enough skips in the amateur qualifier to compete with the pros.

You’ll want more.

Everyone spends time practicing, getting a feel for the water, sizing up the competition, learning from the masters, chatting with old friends, and making new ones.

Brian Ferry is a reporter with the Times Observer. He likes playing volleyball, baseball, softball, bowling, soccer — probably in that order, and skipping stones. All in the name of fun,