How Boomerangs Work

How Do I Throw One?

As we've seen, there are several forces acting on a boomerang as it spins through the air. We know that the boomerang is affected by:

  • The force of gravity
  • The force caused by the propeller motion
  • The force of your throw
  • The force caused by the uneven speed of the wings
  • The force of any wind in the area

So there are five variables involved in a boomerang flight. For a boomerang to actually travel in a circle and come back to its starting point, all of these forces have to be balanced in just the right way. To accomplish this, you need a well-designed boomerang and a correct throw. In cartoons, the boomerang takes care of all the work and pretty much anyone can get the boomerang to return on the first try. Any boomerang enthusiast will tell you, however, that the only way to consistently make good throws is to practice good technique. In this section, we'll give you the basics so you can get started on perfecting your throw.

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  1. Hold the boomerang as shown in the diagram above, with the V-point, called the elbow, pointing toward you, and with the flat side facing out. Hold the boomerang at the end of the bottom wing, with a light pinch-like grip. This boomerang is designed for a right-handed person -- when you hold it correctly with your right hand, the curved edge is on the left and the top wing's leading edge is facing away from you. It probably won't travel back to you if you throw it with your left hand. If you are left-handed, make sure you get a left-handed boomerang -- one that is a mirror image of the boomerang in this illustration. Colorado Boomerangs sells a variety of boomerang styles, and the company says that every model is available in a left-handed version. If you are throwing with your left hand, hold the boomerang so that it is tilted to the left, with the curved side facing to the right. A right-handed boomerang will travel in a counter-clockwise circle and a left-handed boomerang will travel in a clockwise circle.
  2. To keep the wind from forcing the boomerang off course, you should aim the boomerang at a point about 45 to 50 degrees to one side from the direction of the wind (stand facing the wind and rotate about 45 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise). Adjust the position of the boomerang depending on how much wind there is, as shown in the diagram.
  3. When you have set your grip on the boomerang and you have oriented yourself in relation to the wind, bring the boomerang back behind you and snap it forward as if you were throwing a baseball. It is very important to snap your wrist as you release the boomerang so that it has a good spin to it. Spin is the most important thing in a boomerang throw -- it's what makes the boomerang travel in a curved path.
  4. When you throw the boomerang vertically, the uneven force on the top of the spin tilts the axis down gradually, so it should come back to you lying down horizontally, as a Frisbee would. But don't try to catch it with one hand -- the spinning blades could really hurt you. The safe way to catch a returning boomerang is to clap it between your two hands. Always be careful when playing with a boomerang, especially a heavier model. When you throw the boomerang, you must keep your eye on it at all times or it could hit you on the return. If you lose track of its path, duck and cover your head rather than trying to figure out where it is. Boomerangs move quickly, with a lot of force.

Your first attempt will probably end up on the ground, as will your second and third, so don't try to learn with an expensive hand-carved model -- pick up a cheap plastic design at the toy store. Boomeranging is a difficult skill, but it can be a lot of fun to practice. It's certainly a satisfying accomplishment when the boomerang actually comes right back to you and you catch it perfectly!