What is a boomerang and where does it come from?

People who watch me throwing boomerangs often ask the following questions:

• Were boomerangs really used for hunting?
• Do boomerangs return to the thrower?
• Boomerangs come from Australia, don´t they?

Only few people know that there are two completely different types of boomerangs:

1. The hunting boomerang, that does not return (called kylie).
2. The returning boomerang (simply called boomerang).

1. The hunting boomerang is the oldest boomerang-form. The Australian Aborigines used it as throwstick or as a club. Its shape and special airfoil make the kylie spin through the air towards its target. The kylie is thrown parallel to the ground. It is made of hardwood, is about 2cm thick, up to 1.30m long and weighs up to 1kg. If thrown correctly it flies up to 200m. The usual distance it needs to fly for hunting is 50 to 80m. The kylie´s extraordinary flying distance is due to a special airfoil.

Biconvex airfoil of a hunting boomerang

profile of a kylie

Examples for hunting boomerangs

examples of kylies

Such hunting boomerangs were not only excavated in Australia, but as well in the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, India, Egypt, Switzerland etc. In most countries the throwstick was replaced by more efficient weapons. Only the Australian Aboriginals used hunting boomerangs into the modern age.

2. Unlike the kylie the returning boomerang is not suitable for hunting because it is extremely difficult to hit a target with such a boomerang. The returning boomerang is held close to vertical and thrown at a certain angle to the wind. Its flight path is circular so that it returns to the thrower. The airfoil is, with some exceptions, shaped only on the upper side of the boomerang. The picture shows a standard airfoil.

profile of a return-boomerang

What, then, did the Aborigines do with a returning boomerang? It was a plaything for adolescents, a rhythm instrument, a digging tool, religious symbol etc.

There is nevertheless one possibility of using the returning boomerang for hunting: the bird hunt. Hunters stretch huge nets fairly low to the ground. The boomerang is then thrown above a flock of birds. The birds will now swoop down to escape the supposed bird of prey and fly directly into the nets.

Today´s modern sports boomerangs are made out of plywood, polypropylene, fiberglass, ABS, paxolin etc. I prefer aircraft plywood (Finnish birch) of 3mm, 4mm or 5mm thickness. This kind of plywood has two plies per millimeter and is therefore very robust and does not break too easily.

beginner-boomerang three blades beginner-boomerang two blades

Today the sports boomerang is known all over the world. Many countries have boomerang associations whose members compete every two years in the Boomerang World Championships. The following countries have a national boomerang association: USA, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. One of the largest boomerang associations in the world is the Deutsche Bumerang Club (German boomerang association) with about 300 members. Various boomerang competitions and the German boomerang championships are held annually. But for many throwers competitions are not the main reason for joining the German boomerang association. What is most important is the possibility to meet other throwers to discuss boomerang related stuff. The magazine of the German boomerang association is a good source of information.

You can find the basic rules for some competition events on an extra page.

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