Unique World Stone Skimming Championships on tiny Argyll island cancelled due to Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic has forced some massive events to be postponed or cancelled and now a unique world title challenge on a tiny island off the Argyll coast has fallen victim.

Most years, the World Stone Skimming Championships is staged on Eastdale, a former slate quarrying island just off the coast of Oban.

Organisers Eilean Eisdeal, the island’s community development group, had hoped to hold the championships on September 25.

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The event, which along with the World Flounder Tramping Championships at Palnackie on the Solway Firth is one of Scotland’s world famous quirks, attracts competitors and spectators from across the globe.

Samantha Payn from Eilan Eisdale broke the bad news of its cancellation on social media

She wrote: “It is with great regret that we have to tell you that due to the continuous and continuing impact of Covid on the organisation, we have had to cancel the World Stone Skimming Championship 2022 and are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.”

The championships last took place in 2019 and organisers were hoping to attract a record number of entrants and spectators.

The event was started in 1983 by the late Bertie Baker and was resurrected in 1997 by the island community development group.

It's all in the swing: 2009 event sponsor John Forteith, from Oban, shows how to skim the perfect stone Pic: Jane Barlow

Islanders Donald Melville and Keren Cafferty, previous owner of the Puffer Bar and Restaurant on Easdale, were the main organisers for many years.

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Ms Cafferty moved off the island after selling the bar and Mr Melville decided to retire after 24 years of hard work.

Easdale has a year-round population of around 60 and the stone skimming brings between 600-900 visitors to the island during the last holiday weekend of September.

As well as raising funds for local causes, it has helped to shine a spotlight on Easdale, with visits from TV and film crews.

Organisers were hoping to attract a record number of spectators and competitors from around the world to the championship
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Mr Melville said: “The last time it was held was in 2019. Because it takes so long to organise, we really need to start in the January/February to get everything ready on time. We decided to put it off another year as we weren’t sure if it would be able to go ahead.

“I decided, after being involved every year that it went ahead for 24 years, it was time to stand down.

“It is disappointing to see that the event is not going ahead. I was looking forward to going along and not having to organise it

“It is just a bit sad. Who knows what the future may bring? It would be a big loss to the island and wider economy if it was to stop permanently.”

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The perfect skim sees the stone jump across the water Picture by Jane Barlow

The competition is staged in a flooded quarry. Rules are fairly simple – all stones must be of naturally formed Easdale slate and be no more than three inches in diameter.

Anyone of any age or ability can enter.

Each contestant gets three skims per session and the stone must bounce on the surface of the water no less than twice before being considered a valid skim.

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The length of the skim will be judged to the point where the stone sinks into the water. The longest skim in each category is deemed the winner.

The women's event is fiercely competitive with locals and visitors vying for the world champion title Pic: Jane Barlow