Brian Wissner’s introduction to the sport of boomerang throwing was simple.
“I knew some people. I went to a tournament in Seattle, started throwing, had a fun time with it,” he said.
Now, six years later, Wissner, a resident of Bothell, is one of 12 members on the U.S. Boomerang Team. He placed 12th (out of 70 athletes) at the 2014 World Boomerang Cup in Perth, Australia this April.
It turns out the Seattle area is a “hot spot” for boomerang, with eight out of 12 members of the U.S. team living in Seattle.
The sport combines the athleticism of throwing the boomerang — similar to an overhand baseball throw — with the creative aspect of designing and modifying boomerangs to fly as well as possible.
“It’s pretty much like training to be a baseball pitcher, and just working on throwing a lot, getting your shoulder strong, and then the other part is catching,” Wissner said. “Because if you can’t catch it, there’s only one event you’re good in.”
Finding high-quality boomerangs is hard. For that reason, many athletes make their own or buy them from friends and modify them. Simple boomerangs can be made of foam or balsa wood, with competition-level boomerangs crafted from injection-molded nylon, carved wood, carbon fiber or fiberglass composites.
Two-winged boomerangs are traditional, but three- and four-winged boomerangs are more common now, Wissner said. Different shapes, sizes and designs are used, based on the strength of the thrower, the wind conditions, the event and whether the person is right- or left-handed.
“Pretty much, you just get boomerangs from people in the community and around the world that you know, and you modify what they’ve made so it works better for you,” Wissner explained. Rubber bands and hockey tape can be added to create drag; adding lead tape or coins gives the boomerang more weight.
Wissner, a quality engineer at a composites facility, has studied and worked in composites and plastics injection molding for most of his career, so modifying and making boomerangs is “right up my alley,” he said.
“It’s a lot of physics. People [who throw boomerangs] range from college professors ... construction guys ... lawyers,” he said. “We’ve got guys that make and sell boomerangs for a living and that’s all they do. There’s a really wide variety of people overall.”
However, there are no professional sponsorships for boomerang throwers.
Wissner usually attends three local tournaments a year, as well as a national tournament. There are nine different events, including fast catch, endurance, accuracy, trick catch, maximum time aloft (MTA) and long distance. Teams also compete in relays.
Wissner’s favorite events are long distance and Australian round, which is a combination of several events based on accuracy and distance. Athletes throw the boomerang 30, 40 or 50 meters and get points for catching it, for distance and for accuracy.
“The big thing for me is, it’s a really big family,” he said. “So when I went to Australia, I was able to see all my friends and family again.”