Whatever your age the sense of build up and anticipation is the same. You strive to do the best you can and find the best tools to help you reach your goal. The location and prevailing elements can have a major influence on whether you succeed or fail. If you're too confident you might over cook your effort while being too casual or cautious will lead you down the cul-de-sac of no hope. Getting the balance and temperament right is a vital ingredient to success.
Little rivalries can develop quickly whether between kids and kids or adults and adults or even kids and adults. It's always amazing how nature can create, over millions of years, the perfect little spheres that are ideal for this activity which can generate memories that will last a life time.
Yes I'm talking about stone skimming, that timeless past time that generations have enjoyed. Whether you skim yours on a beach, lake or river the experience and emotions are the same. This is partly about accuracy and technique but it's also about pride and raw emotion.
Stone skimming nestles at number five on the new '50 things to do before 11 3/4' list published by the National Trust this week. The beauty and appeal of such a wonderfully simple concept is the combination of the British love of a list and the focus on activities that activate memories of childhood and cross the generations.
Skimming a stone isn't just about wandering down to a beach or a lake side, picking up a stone and throwing it at as low an angle as possible. It's much more than that.
This is all about you v nature. This is all about the build up, the sense of anticipation, the hopes and dreams, the highs and lows.
A few years back I remember coming across a beautiful little beach in south Cornwall that claimed to have the perfect stones for stone skimming. The challenge was there and I couldn't resist.
Straight away I found smooth stones that looked perfect. I hadn't skimmed stones for a while and often you end up throwing them into torrid and crashing waves to little effect. But on this day this beach, at the head of an atmospheric Cornish creek, felt like the ideal location with the water as calm and flat as a mill pond, glistening in the warm autumn sunshine.
See how this experience has been parked in my memory box. This is the power of nature combined with the intoxicating sense of playfulness.
My first few attempts were too fierce. I was trying too hard. It was as though I was saying to my two kids: look at Daddy, isn't he great. I couldn't blame my tools. I needed to refocus, take stock and relax. The kids started hunting for stones and got going, their faces beaming with delight as the stones bobbed along. For them the search for the stones was as important.
There is a real art to skimming a stone. It's about the ergonomics, maths and psychology. If you get the mix right and get into a rhythm everything falls into place. Your throwing action needs to be more about smoothness and grace rather than power and bluster. The posture is vital; slightly bending the knees and bringing the throwing arm down and then close to the ground to get the angle right.
I'm sure someone somewhere has come up with a mathematical formula for the perfect throw to skim a stone. The romantic in me hopes that they have.
As you let go of the stone and it hits the water your heart skips a beat as this second of time will determine the number skims. The feeling is the same whether you're seven or an adult. Slowly your arm begins to ache but like an elite athlete you take yourself through the pain barrier. You keep on going, searching for the extra few skims that take you into the realm of having something impressive to tell your friends.
I kept on going knowing that time was not on my side. I'd made it into the comfort zone of double figures and reached 15. I felt satisfied. It was time to go and I had a target to break for next time.
You find out about the full list of 50 things at http://www.50things.org.uk
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