2018-07-07 / News

50th Annual Stone Skipping Competition Ushers in Changes

By Marina Lindland


All of the skippers in the professional division pay tribute to Russ “Rock Bottom” Byars, who passed away in October 2017. The stones were painted gold on one side, and had Mr. Byars’s name on the other. All of the skippers in the professional division pay tribute to Russ “Rock Bottom” Byars, who passed away in October 2017. The stones were painted gold on one side, and had Mr. Byars’s name on the other. For 20 years, Eric Steiner of Grosse Pointe has announced the W. T. Rabe Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Competition. Now, he is more than ready to retire.

“I’ve never had the chance to really sit and enjoy the competition,” he said. “I want the opportunity to just sit and watch.”

At some point during the competition Wednesday, July 4, Mr. Steiner planned to hand the microphone to someone in the crowd and give them the opportunity to try announcing.

Although this was to be his last year of announcing for the competition, Mr. Steiner has no qualms about stepping away from the spotlight. He knows he still will be involved with the competition and he will be able to see the same people when he comes back.


John Hilton of Chesterfield gets in a few practice skips before competition. Judges tally the total number of skips in three throws. John Hilton of Chesterfield gets in a few practice skips before competition. Judges tally the total number of skips in three throws. “I’ve been doing this for so long,” he said. “It’s time for a whole new generation to take charge.”

Mr. Steiner, his wife, Kathleen, and a son, Ethan, who serves as the “high commissioner” of the competition, have been involved in the world of stone skipping for nearly 22 years, since their son was four years old. Mr. Steiner has appeared on ESPN, CBS, and in the documentary “Skips Stones for Fudge,” which focuses on the friendly rivalry between his son, Kurt “Mountain Man” Steiner, and long-time friend Russ “Rock Bottom” Byars.

“Russ held the Guinness world record for the most stone skips, until my son beat him,” Mr. Steiner said. “They had a bit of a rivalry going.”


Judge Robert Ransom announces the start of the W. T. Rabe Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Competition before introducing his wife, Lynne, and the white bear in her hands, called Kate Stone, through which she sings “God Bless America.” Eric Steiner is at right. Judge Robert Ransom announces the start of the W. T. Rabe Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Competition before introducing his wife, Lynne, and the white bear in her hands, called Kate Stone, through which she sings “God Bless America.” Eric Steiner is at right. According to Mr. Steiner, Mr. Byars mentored his sons and taught them the techniques of the sport. He also holds the record for most wins at the W. T. Rabe. Stone Skipping Competition, winning it eight times. Mr. Byars died in October 2017 at the age of 54.

“He was a really special guy,” said Mrs. Steiner. “He had a great sense of humor and he always worked really well with the kids at the competition. He was always really patient with them.”

As a tribute to the late athlete, the professional stone skippers took part in a golden skip-off. Each was given stone with Mr. Byars’s name on it and they skipped them off of Win- dermere Point simultaneously. There was also a small ceremony in which a stone with Mr. Byars’s name was to be fixed to the Stone Skipping Hall of Fame trophy. Mr. Byars was inducted into the Hall of Fame on September 23, 2017, only a few days before his passing.


Jordan Ingram of Beverly Hills, Michigan, shows his three-yearold son, Zander, where to throw rocks for the Gerplunking contest. Mr. Ingram has been competing in the contest as a professional stone skipper for 15 years. Jordan Ingram of Beverly Hills, Michigan, shows his three-yearold son, Zander, where to throw rocks for the Gerplunking contest. Mr. Ingram has been competing in the contest as a professional stone skipper for 15 years. For Mr. and Mrs. Steiner, the absence of Mr. Byars was not the only bittersweet note at this year’s competition. This is the first year the couple came to Mackinac Island without any of their children in tow.

“Life just happens,” said Mr. Steiner. “Two of them got new jobs and the other one has a wedding to go to. There will be other years.”


Jeff McNutt of Iowa City, Iowa is crowned the Amateur Champion of the 2018 Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Contest, with a total of 20 skips. He also won the Amateur Division in 2012 with 22 skips. Jeff McNutt of Iowa City, Iowa is crowned the Amateur Champion of the 2018 Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Contest, with a total of 20 skips. He also won the Amateur Division in 2012 with 22 skips. Although it’s a poignant year for Mr. Steiner, it will not stop him from having fun. Every year, he said, he has taken a young kid, maybe around the age of five or six, who did a good job in the Pebbles Tournament and brought them up on stage.

“I’ll give them the microphone,” said Mr. Steiner, laughing, “and I’ll tell them to tell their parents, ‘Guys. I don’t want to go to college. I’m dropping out of school to become a professional stone skipper.’ It’s always great to see their faces.”

The results of the 50th W. T. Rabe Stone Skipping Contest are as follows:

Zara Smejkal of Chicago won the Gerplunking contest, which was judged based on the loudest “gerplunk” sound. She finished first with a score of 7.58.

Austin Loy, who is related to professional stone skipper Glen “Hard Luck” Loy, won the Pebbles division with a total of 13 skips.

Jeff McNutt of Iowa City, Iowa, won the Amateur Division with 20 skips.

David “Lefty” Kolar of Troy, a previous stone skipping champion, won the 2018 Professional Division after a skip-off with a final score of 19 skips.

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