Michael ‘Gel’ Girvin: Boomerang master
By BETH ELLIOTT
Federal Way Mirror Reporter
August 11, 2009 · Updated 11:42 PM
Boomerangs did not originate in Australia. It is also not a myth that they come back when thrown correctly.
Michael "Gel" Girvin was quick to dismiss the two biggest misconceptions about boomerangs during an interview at Highline Community College.
The Australian Aborigines have preserved the boomerang to its highest state of development. Girvin said this is most likely due to the Aborigines being one of the few cultures to have never developed weapons. This fact lends to the myth of origin, but the truth is, no one knows where boomerangs first appeared.
Ancient "throwsticks" have been found all over the world, according to the U.S. Boomerang Association, including eastern Europe and Egypt. King Tut, dead for more than 2,000 years, had a collection of both hunting and returning boomerangs.
The original, non-returning throwstick was a heavy weapon used to kill prey. Over time, the boomerang became more curved and refined, so that it returned after being thrown. Most likely discovered by accident, the returning boomerang is too light for hunting and is only used for sport.
A sport that has been around for thousands of years and played all over the world, and yet has never really hit mainstream?
"It could go big, but no one's hit the recipe — yet!" Girvin said.
It may be a fringe sport, but it certainly isn't going anywhere.
The USBA was formed in 1980 with championships held every year. International competitions are held all over the world with competitors from France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Australia and the United States.
For the past nine years, the U.S. and Germany have dominated the international championship. Even so, Girvin said that the sport itself isn't "big" anywhere.
"It will never be big until it's on TV and people can make money off of it," Girvin said.
For beginning throwers, Girvin suggests starting with either the Aspen, Yanaki, Carlota or Bellan style boomerangs. Boomerangs are hard to find in stores, but can be found online; Girvin suggests www.boomerangs.com.
Three rules of the boomerang
There are three basic rules to throwing.
First, hold the boomerang flat side out. Next, hold it nearly vertical, slightly tipped out about five degrees. This is where many people get it wrong.
"You never want to throw sidearm — it won't work," Girvin said.
Lastly, check wind direction by dropping a pinch of grass into the air. Facing into the direction of wind, turn 45 degrees to the right (left if you are left-handed) and throw.
More tips are available on Girvin's Web site: www.gel-boomerang.com
Even after 12 years of retirement, the 46-year-old world champion still gets excited about the sport. Girvin was hooked from the moment he threw his first boomerang at age 21.
"My dad gave me this beautiful yellow boomerang with blue and red stripes. The first throw I watched it fly through the blue sky and pass over the trees," Girvin said.
That was all it took.
That day, Girvin tried to make a boomerang on his own. He started reading about boomerangs and their history. He studied physics so he could understand how boomerangs worked, and wrote letters to everyone in the sport that he could find.
This eventually led Girvin to teaching weekly classes and organizing tournaments.
In 1984, Girvin started Gel Boomerang. He designed and sold his own line of boomerangs for 14 years, winning national awards for design and technological advancement.
Looking back, Girvin realizes Gel might not have been the best name for the company.
"Their first thought was that it was made of gel," Girvin said.
For 10 years in a row, Girvin was selected for the USA National Boomerang Team, including the 1994 World Champion USA team. He became a five-time world record holder and was an assistant coach for the 2002 World Champion USA Team.
In 2001, the U.S. Boomerang Association honored Girvin with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Girvin retired in 1997. He returned to school to study accounting and business. He began to tutor and realized his knack for teaching extended beyond the boomerang.
Girvin has been a business instructor at Highline for the past seven years. He currently lives in Seattle with his wife and two children.Contact Federal Way Mirror Reporter Beth Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org or (253) 925-5565.