How To Throw A Boomerang (That Will Actually Return)

Our handy boomerang guide

 

You may have recently gotten a boomerang for yourself as entertainment or as a traditional gift from Australia and have been itching to test it out. However, using it and looking at it are two different beasts. Luckily we’ve compiled an easy guide showing you how to enjoy this iconic tool. However, first you should make sure you have the right type of boomerang to throw with, or you may end up losing a boomerang or denting your neighbour’s car. A true returning boomerang is crafted to ensure that it’s aerodynamic path will return to its user. That being said, most Australian boomerangs are not returning boomerangs.

Another important point to keep in mind is that you should be doing this in an appropriate open area or space like a park where there is sufficient room for the boomerang to fly safely. Weather also plays a role in affecting your boomerang’s flight, while rain has little to do with overall performance, moderate to strong winds will impact it. 

Aerodynamics of Boomerangs

Returning boomerangs are made up of two or more airfoil-shaped wings (or arms) that are connected at an angle, which causes the wings to rotate when thrown.

Right and left-handed throwers will use different boomerangs. The main difference between the two varieties is that the leading edges of the aerofoil sections are slightly reversed. A right-handed boomerang will typically fly counter-clockwise to the left, whereas a left-handed boomerang will fly clockwise to the right — both in a circular shape. These have similar dimensions, with a 20–40m range and 250–350mm wingspan.

When the boomerang is in the air it will spin and fall in a spiral motion. The direction of the boomerang will vary depending on the spin, with a high spinning boomerang flying in a curve and a low spinning boomerang flying in a straight line. Boomerangs that are thrown correctly should also return to their starting position

As each blade rotates by one-half, the airspeed increases as the rotation tip speed and the forward speed add together. In the second half of the rotation, the rotation tip speed subtracts from the forward speed, which means that if thrown upright, the blades will generate more lift at the top as opposed to the bottom. The gyroscopic precession causes the rotation to tilt 90 degrees to the direction of the flight, where it turns. When the boomerang is thrown horizontally, similar to how a frisbee would be thrown, the gyroscopic precession will swing the boomerang straight up into the air with momentum, before crashing down.

There are a variety of boomerangs that differ in shape, based on their aerodynamics. A Fast Catch boomerang is made up of three or more symmetrical wings, a Long Distance boomerang is shaped like a question mark, and a Maximum Time Aloft boomerang has one wing which is longer than the other. The varying lengths, twists and bends in the boomerang’s wings induce an auto-rotation effect, which increases the hover time of the boomerang when it descends from the highest point in its flight.

Many boomerangs also feature turbulators, which are knobs or bumps on the upper side of the wings. These work to increase the lift as the boundary layer changes, keeping attached the turbulent flow instead of separating.

Technique for Boomerang Throwing

Throwing should be practised in a large, open area with at least 50 metres of space on all sides. Right-handed and left-handed boomerangs can be thrown with either hand, but using the wrong hand may result in an awkward movement for the thrower. Understanding the weight and aerodynamics of the chosen boomerang, as well as the direction, consistency and strength of the wind will help with the accuracy of the throw. The thrower will also choose the degree of spin, throw strength, angle of the tilt, angle against the wind and elevation of trajectory - all perfected over time through trial and error.

Once the boomerang has been thrown, it should travel parallel to the ground and may slowly rise upward in a circular or tear-drop shaped motion before flattening and returning in a hovering motion. This hover makes room for the catcher to clamp their hands together horizontally, sandwiching the boomerang in the centre of their hands, between their palms. 

The thrower’s grip will depend on the shape and size of the boomerang, with smaller boomerangs typically held between the finger and thumb, and larger boomerangs typically held with one or two fingers wrapped over the top edge. The aerofoil-shaped section must face inwards towards the thrower, with the flat side outwards. In addition, the boomerang elbow should be pointed either forwards, pointed backwards or gripped for throwing, before it begins to spin on the chosen inclination and direction, with the right force.

Throwing in high wind is a challenge, as it will affect the path of the boomerang. The boomerang should be thrown around the wind, meaning that right-handed throwers should throw to the right of the oncoming wind and the boomerang will return to the left, and vice versa for left-handed throwers. Calm wind is preferable for an accurate throw, while light winds of up to 6–9km are manageable if the thrower has skill. If the thrower practices during windy conditions, they should be aware of the wind’s strength, finding slight ebbs and flows in the wind to launch the boomerang.

Step-by-step Throwing Guide

There is no secret trick to doing this, however consistent form and good body mechanics will ensure the best experience for you and your boomerang. This can be broken down into 5 simple steps:

  1. First, we’ll have to navigate wind. It is what carries your boomerang and the difference maker between your boomerang ending up in someone’s backyard and landing back at you. What you want is to throw around the wind’s path to ensure your boomerang flies squarely away and loops back to you. A direction of roughly 45-50 degrees right (or left if you’re using a left-handed boomerang) away from the wind facing at you is the sweet spot, too far away and it will return to the right, too close and it will return closer to the other side.
  2. The rest of these steps are often the most tricky, due to execution and precision. To hold it properly, have the end of the boomerang nestled firmly but not tightly between your thumb and index finger when gripping. As you throw, aim for some slight elevation above eye-height.
  3. You should also pay attention to the tilt of the boomerang to the side, ideally, you should be throwing it at an angle around 30 degrees to get the best curve during calm conditions. As it gets windier, you can gradually adjust the tilt inwards.
  4. The key to getting the sweet swing from the boomerang lies in your spin, and the wrist action you impart on it as it flies out of your hand, rather than your forcing it to drift in the wind. Once you generate enough spin, it will do all the work on its own.
  5. With the above points being said, your throw is still the final piece in the puzzle of hurling this bent stick and praying it returns. So how strong should you be throwing your boomerang? This all depends on how you control all other mentioned factors. Without control, your boomerang is just another fetch stick for your dog.

Once you nail these, you’ll be well on your way to seeing the return of your boomerang instead of seeing it disappear into the woods.

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