Given the chance, Kurt Steiner will lecture endlessly on the physics of stone skipping. He’ll mention mathematical equations he’s calculated pertaining to the stream at the Pennsylvania Qualifying Stone Skipping Tournament. He’ll describe the perfect stone in fantastic detail. He’ll wonder aloud why he hasn’t written a book on the subject.

It’s enough to make one think that the Pennsylvania native takes stone skipping too seriously. Way too seriously.

And then, Steiner mentions that he skipped last year’s national championship in Michigan to compete in a pinball tournament in Maine, instead.

“I came in fourth place,” Steiner said. “It’s a lot easier on the schedule. Stone skipping is really difficult for me where I live. I don’t have rocks or a place to practice.”

So maybe he doesn’t take stone skipping too seriously, after all.

But that doesn’t mean the former world record holder is any less passionate. In fact, he’s considering a shot at reclaiming the Guinness world record from stone skipping rival and friend Russ Byars. It’s an effort that would require hiring a camera crew and picking the perfect place to attempt to break Byars’ record of 51 skips.

For now, Steiner is preparing for the tournament in his home state. As a novice, I was eager to ask the five-time champion a few questions about the event.

Anyone Can Enter: Can you take me through the process on the day of the competition?

Kurt Steiner: They run it a little different for the amateurs, but for the pros they like to build the suspense by having each person throw once and then repeat that. You throw, sit down. Throw, sit down. As this goes on, the judges score you on the number of skips. The way they do it is a combination of counting and guestimation. Once you get to the end of a throw it’s just impossible to count without a camera, so the numbers you get in a tournament aren’t going to be accurate. Part of it is ranking throws compared to the other throws.

Anyone Can Enter: Can you count them yourself?

Steiner: No. I’ve taken some video and that helps. You can count some, but it’s hard to count on video, too. I can tell if one was over 40, but not beyond that.

Anyone Can Enter: I would think this format lends itself to a lot of controversy. Have you ever seen a fight because of a bad call?

Steiner: First of all, you have to back up a second. This is not that serious of an event. Russ takes it serious and I take it pretty serous, but nobody’s going to complain. I’ve seen some bad calls and I’ve been on the end of some bad calls, but the winner is pretty much always deserving. Somebody’s always going to be on.

Anyone Can Enter: You haven’t won in a few years. What are your chances this year?

Steiner: The last couple of years, I have bombed so bad. I just love skipping rocks, so as soon as I get there I want to throw and I can’t stop. By the time it starts, I feel like I’ve been through a long practice. At the start of last year’s tourney, I was dehydrated and could barely talk because my mouth was so dry. This year, I’m going to back off my power and pump up my accuracy. In the tournament, everybody’s got a couple of nerves, so if you can be consistent you’re in good shape.

Anyone Can Enter: Do you ever fantasize about throwing rocks in other places?

Steiner: If I ever could just break free and be all over the place, I’d make a nuisance of myself. I’d go skip stones in Central Park. I have a fantasy about skipping a stone at the reflecting pool in Washington, DC. I have all these things that I’d like to do and I’m sure I’d end up paying fines, but it would be worth if it. If I got the record again, I think I would have earned the right to make that splash.

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