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The Lost Art of Stone Skipping

As delivered by Karl Rabe at the 2009 Winter Rules Committee Meeting of the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Club

Not to dilly-dally or shilly-shally but before I begin — a few things I would like to mention…

As many of you know, in December Virginia Gillis passed away. Gini was the first female to break through the proverbial quartz ceiling when she was appointed as the High Commissioner of Stone Skipping, assuming that mantle from her late husband the Hon Judge Joseph Augustus Gillis. She blazed a trail for women in the sport. Lets raise a glass — to Gini.

I don’t think when my father formed the MISSGC he had any idea that 40 years later it would still be going strong. I am sure many people have been instrumental in that longevity but probably none more so than John Kolar with his passion and enthusiasm for the sport and Paul Toepp with his vision and promotion ability. It is gratifying to see the event continue and I am grateful to everyone involved. You are carrying on the sport in the Grand tradition.

So, on to The Lost Art of Stone Skipping! Are you stoned? Blaspheme you cry? Who is this casting stones at our venerable sport?

Lest you think I crawled out from under the Little David Trophy, let me assure you my Stone Skipping pedigree dates back to the first contest held on the beaches of Silver Birches, a stones throw from the famed Point aux Pins. Under the watchful eye of retired Commander E. M. Tellefson I was indoctrinated as Tournament Registrar. A position I held until 1971 when I advance to Steward and then ultimately in 1973 to Judge and a member, I am proud to say, of the Stone Skipping College of Jurisprudence.

So believe me when I say I don’t take lightly the term Lost Art.

Am I referring to an era gone by? A simple time? The purity of the sport when in 1932 The Commander cast his famed 17 upon the flounder flat straights?

Lost Art. Could it be the introduction of technology — the drip-dry trouser innovation of the early ‘70s that revolutionized stone skipping stances and ultimately led to the engineering of the Speedo Body Suit popularized in the 2008 Summer Olympics?

Lost Art. Is it quite literally the impact on the sport of the Unidentified Skipping Stone from the Pebbly Knoll conspiracy theory in the late ‘70s that forever transformed plain old Loy into Hard Luck Loy and burdened him, to this day, with the stigma of an asterisk?

Lost Art. Perhaps it is the unsterilized off-island stone scandal of 1988 that despite rumors has never been linked to the zebra muscle infestation of the Great Lakes?

Lost Art. Maybe it is the Swedish and Danish invasions of the sport which I am disgusted to say exposed our youngest skippers to SMUT?

Lost Art. Could it be the rumors out of Edinburgh Scotland of attempts with genetic engineering to create a Super Skipper, in the hopes that the pitter-patter of little feet would lead to many pitty-pats and larger feats?

Lost Art. Maybe it is the recent successful cover-up of the skip enhancing anabolic steroid use by Russian skippers.

No! Rest easy Committee Members. Real or imagined these are not the things of which I speak.  The Lost Art of Stone Skipping to which I refer, quoting Webster, is not “skill in conducting human activity” but rather “the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria” – the Antiques Road Show lost-in-the-attic variety is what brings me before you now so that I can see it is returned to its rightful owner.

Yes. A work of stone skip art that has graced the walls of as many Detroit Press Club North locations as it has seen dark basements and musty attics. This framed masterpiece has traveled from the DPCN in Room 113 at the Lakeview Hotel (back when it actually had a lake view), to William Backhouse Astor, then the Windsor Hotel. It has been cargo in a car, ferried on a ferry, hefted on a horse, dropped from a dray, and basketed on a bicycle.

It is the quintessential stone skipping — simultaneously representing The Golden Year and the golden age of skipping. I would now like to unveil this masterpiece and see it returned to its just owner – John Kolar.

What followed was an unveiling of a 16×24 framed black and white photo unearthed from the Rabe archives of John Kolar skipping on Windermere Pointe Beach.

3 Responses to “The Lost Art of Stone Skipping”

  1. Kathleen Kolar says:

    Karl,
    I hope that you will be able to post a copy of that magnificent photo!

    Congrats to all of you, and especially to John Kolar and Paul Toepp III, for your rock-solid work, and especially for the donations to local charities which this effort yields annually.

    Rock on,
    Kathleen Kolar
    Boston, MA

  2. John "Shillelagh" Kolar says:

    Wow,
    Few can appreciate the Golden Years like Karl Rabe.
    Thanks to him, for his historic writing on The Lost Art,
    and preserving such a great image for the Archives.

    Lest we forget, that Skipping Stones are dreams that come true.
    John “Shillelagh” Kolar

  3. The Commish says:

    I have been involved with the grand old sport of stone skipping since I was a young boy. I am still activily involved and appreciate the strong commitment to this great sport. Please join the BIG event on Mackinac Island on the Windemere Beach every july 4th.

    Regards, the commish

    Paul H. Toepp

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