Why Do Men Feel the Need to Skip Rocks on Ponds?

Posted on


Boy Skipping Rocks

Steven GottliebGetty Images

In Scotland, hundreds of men from all over the world descend upon the tiny Easdale Island to throw rocks as part of the annual World Stone Skimming Championship, where the best professional rock skippers come to compete.

The Scottish tournament is just one of a few dozen similar tournaments across the globe where dudes skip rocks across lakes and ponds for sport. Like any other athlete, they practice and get injured and take home prizes. (Instead of cash, winners might win fudge—yes, fudge—as is the case at the Pennsylvania Stone Skipping Championship.)

Though the sport isn’t all guys—women, too, compete in tournaments—most competitive participants are men. As explained by Donald Melville, organizer of the World Stone Skimming Championship, women don’t seem drawn to the professional sport in the same way men are. But why is it that so many guys have some strange compulsion to throw a rock across a pond, even when a fudge prize isn’t on the line? On a recent Reddit thread, one user, too, described this apparent phenomenon among men.

Like those of us guys who feel a compulsion to touch high doorframes or smack swinging overhead signage, the obvious explanation is that it’s mindless fun. “It’s a wonderful feeling when you see that stone hitting the water and just keep going and going,” Melville said over the phone. “It’s like you’ve beaten gravity or something. It’s almost a primeval thing.”

Keisuke Hashimoto, the “Lebron James of stone skipping” and the 2017 world champ, said he’d also picked up the sport by virtue of wanting to spend a lot of time outdoors. In an interview, Alex Lewis, a 22-year-old British champ, called throwing rocks “therapeutic.”

And if it isn’t being one with nature that drives us to want to skip a rock, maybe we just enjoy a little competition. Ashley Merryman, author of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing and a researcher who specializes in the psychology behind competition, theorizes that we might enjoy taking pleasure in the act of trying to defy physics. There is a competitor, after all, and it’s basic science and Mother Nature! But is there a reason men, in particular, seem to share this inexplicable impulse?

Well, Merryman says men tend be more overconfident in their skills than women; the result is that guys might compete more often, whether it’s meaningful or not. If we believe we’re good at everything, why not take every shot we can to test that theory?

For others, maybe playing with rocks is just fun in the same way other toys from our childhood are. Or it’s a memory of an experience we want to re-live instead. David Ohmer, a Pennsylvania champion, shared with me his experience skipping rocks as a child and how it’s grown into a passion of his ever since.

“I could skip one or two but my father could pelt it way out,” Ohmer said of his earliest memory skipping rocks. “Going to the competitions was a big thing for he and I. And a big motivator in rock-skipping for me now is because I lost [him] five years ago. I have three children and now we all compete. We all practice. It’s become a family thing.”



Source link