The boomerang is being maligned. People keep saying that a boomerang is a weapon. If it is, it is the only weapon I know where the target is the thrower. The odd definition comes about from the fact that the Aborigines of Australia used throwing sticks to catch or kill animals for food.
The throwing stick, which has many different names and origins, is basically a fairly heavy stick carved relatively flat and thrown horizontally. The aerodynamic effect of the flat spinning wood off-sets the weight and allows it to fly further than an unshaped piece of wood of the same weight. A well carved throwing stick can fly close to 100 yards with surprising accuracy. I have one I carved from pictures of old throwing sticks and I knocked the flag out of the third hole at Champions Golf Club from about 75 yards. (One evening, near my house when no green-keeper was around.)
It is easy to visualize a native throwing sticks, noticing that some sticks curve if shaped differently or if thrown at angles above the horizontal. You can further imagine one such inquisitive thrower trying to deliberately shape or throw his stick to make it curve more, and if we do this, I believe we have found how the boomerang was developed. It became more of a toy than a weapon.
A well-constructed boomerang has two arms at an angle of 90-120 degrees with the profile of one arm shaped like an airplane wing and the other shaped in reverse of that. If this is then thrown with only a small tilt from the vertical, with a fast spinning motion, it will turn in the opposite direction of the tilt. A right-handed thrower should tilt it slightly to the right, stand with a gentle wind blowing in his left ear (if it is very windy go and fly a kite), and throw it hard horizontally or with a slight elevation.
With practice, a perfect throw would show the boomerang spinning away, gradually rising and circling to the left as it turns into the breeze. By now, it will be spinning almost flat and climbing into the wind. When it reaches its azimuth, it will start a downward glide back to the thrower. The outward distance and the time in the air varies with the actual boomerang and the way it is thrown.
In all sports, it does not take long to start accumulating records and statistics as well as competition. Although boomeranging became popular in the sixties, mainly because Whamo introduced a popular plastic boomerang, it took the US Boomerang Association until 1984 to be formed. This body still organizes meets and competitions, even international competitions. In these meets, various levels of proficiency are catered for but the international experts have set some amazing records. For example, the Most Time in the Air, MTA, record is 6 minutes 21 seconds and Long Distance is a phenomenal 238 meters. Another record is in Juggling which involves keeping one of two boomerangs in the air and continually catching them. The record is 555 catches.
Before boomerang throwers got organized, back in the sixties and seventies, most throwers got kicks for other feats. A group claimed to have thrown one round the Washington Monument and I made an effort to do the same when I was in Washington on business. I walked around it and was eyed very suspiciously by a security guard. By the time I thought I could have a shot at it the wind picked up and there was no chance. I successfully circumnavigated the Hemisfair Tower or Tower of the Americas in San Antonio. It was a difficult throw as there is a large building at the base, but in failing light one evening I was able to pull it off. I failed to catch my returning boom because of the light but it hit my leg on the return.
I threw one of my booms around the floor of the Superdome in New Orleans during a guided tour to the great surprise of an Australian who confessed he had never seen a boomerang thrown before. On a trip out West I threw one out from the edge of the Grand Canyon and when it came back short of me I failed to catch it and it took off down the canyon. We watched it until it was literally out of sight and I believe I set a combination record of MTA and distance. Unfortunately, it was flying away from me and never coming back. I later threw one out and back successfully, almost hitting two ladies who stepped up next to me to see the view.
I remember reading of one enthusiast who was throwing booms in a field covered with snow and was having difficulty finding them when they slid beneath the snow. He solved the problem by taking a leaf rake and raking the snow. He said if you think you look silly in the middle of a field throwing sticks, imagine how you look raking snow. As I said at the beginning, boomerangs are coming back. If you have a friend, you can go and throw Frizbees but if you are friend-less you need a boomerang. Hopefully, I have inspired you to get one in which case, I wish you Many Happy Returns.