Brief Communication | Published:

Secrets of successful stone-skipping

Nature volume 427, page 29 (01 January 2004) | Download Citation



Skipping stones across water has been a popular pastime for thousands of years — the rules of the game have remained unchanged since the time of the ancient Greeks1 — and the world record, set by J. Coleman-McGhee in 1992, is believed to be 38 rebounds2. Following earlier attempts3,4,5,6 to analyse the physics of this ancestral human activity, we focus here on the crucial moment in stone skipping: when the stone bounces on the water's surface. By monitoring the collision of a spinning disc with water, we have discovered that an angle of about 20° between the stone and the water's surface is optimal with respect to the throwing conditions and yields the maximum possible number of bounces.

Hitting the water at a magic angle gives top performance in a time-honoured pastime.

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Author information


  1. *Institut de Recherche sur les Phénomènes Hors Équilibre, UMR 6594 du CNRS, BP 146, 13384 Marseille, France

    • Christophe Clanet
  2. †Ecole Polytechnique, 91128 Palaiseau, France

    • Fabien Hersen
  3. ‡Laboratoire PMCN, UMR CNRS 5586, Université Lyon-I, 69622 Villeurbanne, France

    • Lydéric Bocquet


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christophe Clanet.

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