Wed 6 Sep 2006
I still haven’t finished my write-ups for each day of our Atlanta trip, but since I’m asked so often “How’d you guys do?” and “What’d you win?”, I thought I should put this quick summary together. (For anyone not aware, Andrew has been known by his school friends as “Ace” since 3rd grade, and that has been his boomerang tourney name since our first outing in 2003.)
Ace got 2nd place overall in the Junior Division (18 and under). These are his finishes in the individual events:
- 1st in Australian Round
- 2nd in Fast Catch
- 2nd in Endurance
- 2nd in Trick Catch
- 2nd in Maximum Time Aloft
- 2nd in Accuracy
- 2nd Overall
These same scores were tallied in the Intermediate Division, and Ace placed twice:
- 3rd in Australian Round
- 3rd in Trick Catch
I was also in the Intermediate Division, competing directly against Ace. As he is getting stronger and more skilled every year, this is probably the last time I’ll be able to beat him at any of these events, so I’d better enjoy it while I can. Bruce’s finishes in the Intermediate Division:
- 1st in Endurance (tie)
- 2nd in Australian Round
- 2nd in Fast Catch
- 2nd in Trick Catch
- 3rd in Accuracy
- 2nd Overall
Though neither of us placed in the Intermediate division for MTA, I do have to point out that Ace beat me by a couple of seconds.
We made 3 boomerangs to enter into the Aesthetics Competition. Only our Texas Longhorn didn’t win. Here are our awards:
To see past USBA Aesthetics winners, click here.
To see our full album of photos from the Expo, click here.
To see an excellent writeup by one of the Advanced competitors, click here.
Mon 4 Sep 2006
Sun 3 Sep 2006
Sunday promised to be a relaxing day, with only 2 events left to complete. The sky was overcast and the temperature was mild. We started out with the least strenuous event of all: Accuracy 100. In this event, you throw your boomerang from the bullseye of a target on the field, and let it land on the ground. There are a maximum of 10 points per throw and 10 throws total, making 100 points a perfect round. To speed things up, we did tandem throwing, meaning that 2 competitors threw each turn. We had time to warm up and practice this so that we wouldn’t get in each other’s way. This was yet another event where Ace and I planned to share the same boomerang: A Tri-Fly that I had modified to fly low and have very little hover, and hopefully drop into the bullseye. Because of the way warm-ups went, I was forced to use a different boomerang: my Fast Catch unit, thrown much softer. Happily, I got used to it quickly and had good results in practice, so I elected to go with it instead of trying to swap out with Ace each turn.
Ace and Delaney threw in the same group as Betsylew and I. During warm-ups, Ace had his boomerang dialed in and was looking like he would score well. Unfortunately, when he got on the real circle, his first throws didn’t go so well. His second and third throws totally failed to score. He finished very strong though, with his last 5 throws scoring 10, 6, 6, 10, and 10. He scored a total of 53 points.
During my turns, I saw why Ace had such trouble at the start. The wind was very shifty, changing almost 180 degrees from one turn to the next. I was able to adjust reasonably well, and scored several 8’s and a couple of 10’s. My total of 69 points was probably my best score overall, putting me in the top 20 overall, even against the Advanced throwers. So I guess I’m glad Ace swiped my accuracy rang and made me use something else.
Now it was time for what some people consider the quintessential boomerang event: Australian Round. This event measures your range, accuracy, and catching ability. Some people use boomerangs that go 50 meters for this event, in order to get maximum range points. But I had been planning to use a 30-meter 3-blader, hoping the accuracy points would make up for the lesser range points. During our only serious practice session before leaving for the tournament, Ace and I discovered that a phenolic 2-blader we had made had pretty good range, and was still fairly accurate. We had been hoping for 40 meters for this boomerang, but during warm-ups, Ace was getting a solid 50 meters with it, and still getting decent accuracy. Well, this totally changed my strategy. I decided I’d go for those range points too, and hope for decent accuracy. I should mention that it was drizzling slightly at this point, further soaking the already dew-wet grass. Our phenolic boomerangs were really slick, but some painter’s tape seemed to give Ace the grip he needed. He finished with 46 points, which got him 3rd place in the Intermediate division.
Now it was my turn, and my warm-ups were a disaster: I didn’t get a single catch. The 50-meter 2-blader wasn’t working. The 30-meter 3-blader wasn’t working. I was already thinking up excuses involving wet grip and bad wind, but I still thought I would come through when it was actually my turn. I started out with the 50-meter boomerang Ace had enjoyed success with, but my first throw was awful, only making 40 meters, and it was all I could do to make the catch when it washed out well outside the accuracy circle. I quickly abandoned the max-range idea and reverted to my 30-meter 3-blader. On my next throw, I got the expected 30-meter range points, but only 4 accuracy points. I finished really strong though, making every catch and scoring 8 accuracy points on my last 3 throws. My 58 total points got me 2nd in the Intermediate division, and definitely improved on my personal best.
The sun came out a bit by lunch time, and the field started to heat up. We had learned our “dry socks and shoes” lesson the previous day, so we were able to eat our lunch at the field and relax, not needing to drive anywhere.
After lunch, it was time for the crowd favorite event: GLORP. This is like the basketball game HORSE, but with boomerang trick catches. You must repeat the trick catch of the “Dominator”, or receive a letter. When you have G-L-O-R-P, you are out of the game. For GLORP, everyone lines up in order of how many years they’ve been throwing boomerangs. It is Ace’s bad luck to have been playing around with boomerangs at 6 years old, which was a year or so before the incredibly formidable Bower Brothers got involved. This means that Ace is behind them in line, and has to do whatever tricks they do to avoid getting a letter. To make a short story even shorter, Ace and I were out of the game early, only making a few trick catches each. This gave us a chance to get out the camcorder to document some of the incredible things our fellow competitors can do with a boomerang. Trick catches involving multiple fist, elbow, and foot hackeys were the norm. “Flamingos”, flipping head catches, and one-handed cartwheel catches were also necessary if you wanted to advance in this game. In 2003, Richard Bower was the Nationals GLORP champ, and though he had to use his once-in-a-lifetime “Dan Quayle ‘E’” to do it, he was able to capture the crown again.
Soon after GLORP, it was time for the awards ceremony. We gathered near the public canopies and that’s when I noticed the prize table. Jason’s tournaments traditionally have a prize table where the last-place contestant gets to pick the best boomerang, and the first place contestant gets whatever has been passed over by everyone else. I realized that I hadn’t yet contributed anything. I went back to my bag and found a new boomerang I wasn’t yet attached to and put it on the table. Jason started handing out the award certificates, and Ace and I ended up with a healthy stack, even getting a piece of “hardware” each: A 2nd-place Overall plaque for Ace in the Junior Division, and a 2nd-place Overall plaque for me in the Intermediate Division. At prize choosing time, Ace selected a wind-devouring “Vorlon” by “Tuscon” Don, and I grabbed an LED night boomerang from Colorado Boomerangs.
Our minor accomplishments are of interest to our friends and family, but I have to recognize the overall Nationals Champion: Harald Steck. Daniel and Richard Bower took second and third.
After helping out with a few throwing lessons for the crowd, Ace and I were ready to head back to the hotel and the pool once again. This time, lots of other boomerang guys had the same idea, and we had a considerable crowd in the pool area. There were some young kids Ace had been talking to every day who didn’t even know what a boomerang was. Today, he brought one out to the pool to show them, and this turned out to be quite fortuitous. Any people out at the pool who had never seen a boomerang got a first-class show. Our boomerang guys were throwing a Tri-fly around the courtyard, and having it hover over the pool so that they could jump for it, catch it, and land in the pool. The kids at the pool were in awe, and I think it’s safe to say that their parents were too. Gregg was able to get some video of this rad madness, and I sure hope I can see it someday. The most incredible stunt of the evening was after the camcorders were put away. Someone made the outrageous suggestion that Logan should do a foot catch and land in the pool. He succeeded on his second try. We all saw him leap toward the boomerang, but couldn’t tell if he’d snagged it with his feet or not. A few seconds later, his feet floated out the water with the boomerang between them, and the crowd erupted into applause while Logan was still upside-down under water.
We finally got out of the pool to head to Outback Steakhouse for dinner. Lots of the group wanted to go there just because they served beer even though you couldn’t buy any at stores on Sunday in Georgia. We had a fun dinner and Ace and I got to hear from “Juice” his adventures of playing a “boomerang guy” in a somewhat mainstream movie: “A Crime“. I can’t wait to see this movie! All too soon, the lights came on, and it was time to leave. Ace had just been involved in his first-ever “closing down” of a restaurant.
When we got back to the hotel, we met up with some guys messing around in the pool area. We hung out til late and had a great time. We knew we didn’t have to get up as early the next day since the competition was over.
Sat 2 Sep 2006
Saturday evening was reserved for an Olive Garden catered dinner, the Aesthetics Competition awards, and the USBA benefit auction. After a nice relaxing swim, Ace and I got cleaned up and headed over to the lobby to meet up with the group. We had already been told that the previous banquet room guests’ event had run long, and that ours would be starting late. To make up for this, we were offered half-priced drinks at the bar. While we waited for our room to come available and our buffet to get set up, we shot the breeze and had a couple of drinks.
Finally, our dinner was ready, and though it might not have been as hot and fresh as it should have been, it was quite good and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The next banquet room over had another event going on, and it was quite loud. It was some sort of religious gathering, but why they chose a Holiday Inn, I can’t imagine. They had a live drummer, and other loud music makers, but if we talked loud enough, we were still able hear each other enough to actually carry on conversations.
We were well behind schedule when the Aesthetics judges got up to present the awards. Since the display had been set up for a while, we had already seen who the winners were, and I’m happy to report that Ace and I were among them. Our “Flying V Guitar” got first place in the Decoration category, and my hardwood Lap-jointed Red Oak V, got first in the Craftsmanship category. The other well-deserved awards were also handed out, and it was finally time for the auction.
The USBA Benefit Auction was one of the highlights from the Houston Expo in 2003, and I’m convinced it was no fluke, because this auction was super-fun too. Matt and Gregg shared auctioneer duties in a sort of tag-team format. Lots of boomerang-related items were sold, raising hundreds of dollars for the USBA. Ace ended up with several T-shirts, both ones he bid on for himself, and ones that friendly folks purchased and gave to him.
The loud music was still going strong in the next room, so our auctioneers had to really “project” in order to be heard. One of the coolest things about the auction was that it was so fun, it actually attracted non-boomerangers. There was a high school soccer team staying at the hotel, and at first I noticed one of them, then a couple more, then pretty soon, a whole gaggle of soccer players. They only had a few dollars between them, and they kept bidding on items, only to have someone else bid over their limit almost immediately. At one point when a Boomerang Association of Dallas (B.A.D.) shirt was up for bid, I tossed the kids some money, so they could finally “win” something. Teenage kids are very good indicators of whether something is cool or “lame”, and it is a testament to Matt and Gregg’s fun factor that these kids stuck around as long as they did. They genuinely enjoyed the show.
Sat 2 Sep 2006
We got to the field early Saturday morning to warm up for the day’s events: Trick Catch, Maximum Time Aloft (MTA), Fast Catch, and Endurance. The first thing we did was submit our entries for the craftsmanship contest. We were also in a rush to buy some boomerangs to compete with: A doubling pair because my home-made pair’s “inner” boomerang didn’t make the required 20 meter range, and an MTA to try to improve on the ~20 second flights we had been seeing at home with our existing one. We ended up buying a doubling pair from the Bower Brothers, and a 3-bladed paper phenolic “Palm” MTA from Mark Legg.
We didn’t have much time to try out these new units though, because soon it was time for the first event: Trick Catch. Ace was first up on our circle, and he started out strong, but then dropped a couple that he should have caught. Since he hadn’t had time to practice with the new doubling pair, he basically only concentrated on one of the catches for each of those throws. He ended up with a disappointing 22 points. I was up next and also started out well, making my first 4 catches in a row. I started dropping like crazy after that, not even coming close on my hackey or foot catches. Incredibly though, I beat Ace by one point, scoring 23. This was the one event that he and I would both have bet on him scoring better than me.
Next up was Maximum Time Aloft. I didn’t participate in this event in my previous tournament, so I didn’t know what to expect. I guess it could best be described as organized chaos. At any time, there were 6 or 7 people throwing simultaneously, then crisscrossing the field trying to avoid each other and track down their catches. MTA was the only event where the Vegas odds-makers were sure I would beat Ace. Well, this one went like Trick Catch in that we were both disappointed in our performances, but the predicted winner lost. MTA is scored by the total of your best 3 throws out of 5 attempts. Ace only had 2 catches out of his 5 throws, but their times added up to more than my best 3 (Ace: 42.26 seconds, Bruce: 40.82). I made the mistake of trying out the new MTA boomerang I had just purchased that morning. After a couple of poor throws, I switched to the same MTA that Ace was using, but it was too little too late. Neither of us placed in the Intermediate division, but Ace got second in the Junior division with his score.
Now it was lunch time. We had ordered a couple of hotdogs so that we wouldn’t have to leave the field for lunch and could just relax. That relaxation was not to be however, because we both had soaked our socks and shoes in the morning dew and wanted something dry to change in to. So we ate our hotdogs in the car while we drove back to the room for fresh socks.
After lunch, it was time for Fast Catch. I had just finished modifying my boomerang for this event on the day we left Texas, but I was comfortable with it and was fairly confident of scoring a sub-30 second round. This was not to be. Ace used the same boomerang and got it warmed up for me, scoring a 57.65. Not bad considering it was the first time he’d seriously thrown that boomerang. When it was my turn, I dropped my very first throw. “Crap!” This was just the kick in the pants I needed. My next 5 throws and catches were reasonably fast, but with the wasted time of the first throw and drop, I scored a 37.95. Ace’s second go was a washout, and he only made 3 catches. My second round was completed without a drop, but I had some poor throws and had to make one really long run for the catch and then back to the bullseye for the next throw. This score of 35.82 was the only second-round improvement on our circle, and it is my personal best in competition. Now I want that sub-30 round more than ever, so I’m forced to get to another tournament before I retire.
Almost immediately after Fast Catch was Endurance. This event is throwing and catching for 5 minutes non-stop, and each throw has to be made from the bullseye, so if you have a couple of bad throws, you can wear yourself out chasing the boomerang down. This was my best event in Houston in 2003, but now I had an honest-to-goodness fast-catch boomerang to use, so I planned to blow that Houston score of 25 out of the water. Once again, Ace used the same boomerang before me, and this time he performed fairly well, scoring 25 catches. This puffed up my confidence even more. If he could score 25, I thought I’d get 30 or more for sure. I was in for yet another letdown though. I had enough bad throws that I really wore myself out chasing them down, but I still thought I had a chance to get 30. When I got to 24 I was nearly out of gas, but no way was I not going to beat my previous personal best. When I caught 26, that milestone was reached, but then I bobbled a couple before finally making catch number 27. I had about 10 seconds left as I jogged back to the bullseye for my last throw. I took a deep breath, made a nice smooth throw… and dropped the catch! 27 was my final score, barely improving on my personal best, and barely beating Ace. That score was good enough for a tie for first in my division, but that event definitely felt like a story of missed opportunities.
By this time, Ace and I were ready to head to the hotel and hit the pool before enjoying the catered dinner that evening.
Fri 1 Sep 2006
Posted by Bruce under BoomerangsNo Comments
We purposely slept in today, and had a fabulous brunch at the Waffle House. Then we went across the street to the Piggly Wiggly to buy an ice chest and stock up on water, sports drinks, and snacks. Finally we got to the field where the Long Distance guys were competing. Ace and I met some guys we hadn’t seen since the 2003 Nationals in Houston and just hung out for a while, watching the LD guys across the field.
As soon as we started practicing, we noticed that the wind might be a problem. Sometimes in the Dallas area, I have to wait out several days in a row of howling winds before getting what I consider proper boomerang conditions. I always talk about the wind being my enemy. Now we’re worried that there might not be enough wind. The windicators would often hang limp, and also totally change direction when there was a noticeable wind. These conditions wreaked havoc with the LD guys. Lots of throws were coming up short on the returns. I couldn’t believe how many non-scoring throws I saw on the scoresheet.
Before leaving DFW, Ace and I had settled on a couple of boomerangs (30 and 40 meter range) to use for Aussie Round that we were having really good results with. Today during practice, we could rarely get them to return all the way. Tomorrow’s wind forecast seems similar, so we’re really concerned about that first day of the actual tournament. It turns out too much wind is actually better than none. I never want to see “Winds Light and Variable” during a boomerang tournament again.
When we got back to the hotel, we hit the pool for a while before finally cleaning up and going out to dinner. About a dozen of us went out to a small Italian joint fairly close to the hotel to carb up for the next day.
Fri 1 Sep 2006
Posted by Bruce under BoomerangsNo Comments
We arrived in Atlanta to 97% humidity. Ace enjoyed his first non-infant plane ride (he was a baby the only other time he had flown), but the wait for our luggage was excruciatingly long. Atlanta’s airport sure wasn’t as car rental friendly as we would have liked either. We saw every other rental car company’s shuttles 3 times before we finally saw the “Budget” shuttle we were looking for. At the Budget rental counter, they were under-staffed and every person trying to rent had some complicated problem that the manager had to help out with. Once I got to the counter, my transaction took less than 5 minutes and we were finally ready to hit the road for Conyers. With all the unexpected delays, our “checked into the hotel and ready to sleep” estimate of midnight was way off. We weren’t actually in the room until almost 1:30. Now we’re gonna try to get some sleep before heading to the field for practice tomorrow.