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Throws of Passion

The Northeast Ohio Boomerang Tournament heads back for another year.

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Don't tell David Boehm that boomerangs are weapons. The founder of the Cleveland Boomerang School has spent years dispelling what he calls "a grave misconception." There's proof, he says, that ancient Australians wielded the flying sticks purely for sport. They're lightweight, limited in where they can fly, and, Boehm facetiously points out, can be used as a weapon only "if the [target is] asleep or tied to a tree."

In fact, "There's no word for 'war' in the aboriginal language," asserts Boehm, who started the boomerang school more than 20 years ago and has wandered the rugged outback, learning the way of the V-shaped wood. This weekend, the school will present its annual Northeast Ohio Boomerang Tournament for veteran throwers and newcomers alike.

Part of the confusion about boomerangs as weaponry can be attributed to the anthropological discovery of hunting sticks, which aborigines hurled at hapless kangaroos. Hunting sticks are completely different from boomerangs, Boehm claims, but some scientists have lumped them together.

Boomerang throwing is more like a solitary game of fetch, with throwers traditionally judged on how close the stick comes back to them. The thrower stands in the center of a marked circle and is awarded points based on accuracy -- or, in a separate event, how many boomerang throws can be caught within an allotted time limit.

Boehm says first-time stick tossers needn't be daunted. A couple of years ago at the annual competition, a nine-year-old boy picked up a boomerang for the first time and recorded the best score for accuracy.

Just as a bowler seeks the alley groove that leads to the pocket, a boomeranger must determine the wind direction and throw to the wind, Boehm says. But unlike bowling, polyester shirts and beer bellies are optional in boomerang culture.

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