Tuning Tips from Gel Boomerangs

on Various Topics from Gel's Notebook

The following tips on various topics are general at best. They are not definitive statements about the various topics. They are tips that have worked for me with my particular throwing style. For throwers who want some throwing and tuning tips, these can serve as a starting point for you when you go out to throw.

Fun, Friends and Practice
The key to having success with boomerangs is fun and practice. If it's not fun, don't do it. If you want to be proficient, you have to practice. And the key to both is to make each boomerang your "friend."

Making a boomerang your friend means that you:
  1. Figure out how the boomerang needs to be thrown to achieve the desired result;
  2. Weight and flap the boomerang to help achieve the desired result (there's not one boomerang in my boom bag that does not have an added flap, or weight);
  3. Throw your boomerang over time (months to years) in varying conditions so that you know how that boomerang will move in the air.

If you have boomerangs that are your friends, you will throw and catch with skill.

Flapping Boomerangs
Adding flaps reduces the spin on a boomerang and slows the boomerang down. On windy days it makes sense to add flaps to your boomerangs to prevent the boom from flying past you. Generally, and I say generally because every boomerang design has different tuning characteristics, place flaps in the center part of the wing parallel to the length of the wing. The longer or higher the flap, the larger the effect will be.

To make a boomerang fly higher, place the flap near the trailing edge on the top side. To make a boomerang fly lower, place the flap near the leading edge on the top side. For two-winged boomerangs, the closer the flaps are to the tips, the stronger effect. On Multi-winged boomerangs be careful not to place the flap too far out each wing, because sometimes it can make the boomerang fly in a straight line. Examples of how to apply these flapping techniques:

1) If you know you have a 40-50 meter boomerang that always works well, and you find yourself throwing on a flat field with a steep upward slope located right about at the spot where your boomerang hits its flight apex, and your trustworthy boomerang ends up dying and hitting the ground without a full return, what do you do? You assume that the hill is causing a strange wind current, and then place a 1/4" long, 1/2" high flap near the elbow at the trailing edge on the top side. This might help the boomerang fly higher and complete its full return.

2) If you have a fastcatch boomerang that always flies over your head, try placing a 1" long, 1/16" high flap on one wing at the leading edge on the top side a small distance from the elbow. This might help it fly low and back into your hands.

Some boomerangs can become magic with the right flap. Some boomerangs won't react any different with a flap. You must experiment with height, length, and placement. Try top, bottom, big, small, one, many....

Adding Weight
Adding coins for weight causes the boomerang to travel further. Simply tape a dime, penny, nickel, or quarter to your boom. The larger the weight, the further the boom will travel. As a starting point, tape a coin to the flat side of the lift arm on two-winged boomerangs. For multi-winged boomerangs try one or more of the wings ( you may be surprised how nonuniform weight distribution will work quite nicely). The closer the weight to the wing-tips the further the range. Sometimes, "weighting a boomerang out" can help in windy conditions. In calm conditions, take weight off to attain complete returns. Experiment with placement at all points on a given boom. This will yield many different flights.

The key to trick catching is position. You need to be in front of the boomerang's forward path. Even when the boomerang is high in the air and appears to be coming straight down, it has a forward direction. You need to position your body so that the boomerang is traveling straight toward the point of catch. If you are attempting a behind-the-back catch, then the boomerang needs to be traveling toward the palm of your hand which is behind your back. You actually need to know, in advance, where the boomerang is going to be! If you are trying a foot catch, you need to be on the ground before the boomerang is there. If you are attempting foot, fist, or head hacky, you need to make sure that your foot, fist, or head is directly in front of the forward direction of the boomerang. That way when you hacky the boomerang, the boomerang bounces in front of you. Remember, the boomerang is continually turning, so you have to continually adjust your position in relation to the boomerang. So get out there and throw that freestyle 'rang 500 times and learn how it moves in the air. If you can't do four hackies to a trick catch, then you have not been practicing enough!


First you must have two boomerangs that have the same flight patterns. That way you can use the same throw/release point every time. The difficult thing about juggling is that you have to do two things at once. You must make a perfect throw while setting up to make a perfect catch--over and over and over. It helps to always keep the incoming boomerang in front of you! Run if you have to, but keep it in front of you. This way you can see the incoming boomerang while you throw out the second boomerang. Juggling is one of the hardest boomerang feats to accomplish. If you can juggle, other boomerang feats and events won't seem as hard. So practice up!

Tri-Winged Fastcatch/Endurance
The key to throwing and catching a fast boomerang is to mentally prepare yourself before you make your first throw. Fastcatch boomerangs are not gentle boomerangs. They want to hurt you. So you must change your mindset. You must dominate the Fastcatch when it hurls itself toward you. Watch the boomerang carefully and slap your hands together hard when you catch. When you do learn how to throw and catch it, then you have to learn how to do it five or more times in a row. It is helpful to not think of the total event. Think of only "one catch," "one throw," "one catch," "one throw..."

To increase the distance on a "trifast" tape a dime to one, two, or all three wings. The closer the weights are to the tips the further the distance. If boom flies over your head, try throwing more vertical, and/or tape a small flap on the top side near the leading edge. If trifast crashes into the ground, try throwing harder, or higher, or with more layover, or try bending dihedral into one or more arms, or try placing a flap at the trailing edge near the center.

MTAs are advanced boomerangs that are difficult to throw. The "window" of throw and release is very small. Incorrect throws can yield very high, out-of-control descents that will crash into the ground. Tuning knowledge is required to become proficient at MTA throwing. Although learning to throw MTAs is difficult, the rewards are long, graceful, seemingly silent flights that will appease your sense of greatness.

MTAs are thrown much higher than other boomerangs: 10-40 degrees elevation. Throw easy at first, then throw harder for more height and hover. Be sure to keep the MTA near vertical upon release. Horizontal throws will result in out-of-control descends that can be dangerous and result in broken boomerangs. If the boom reaches its highest point and is not flat, you have thrown it too high, or too vertical--throw lower or with more layover. If the boom flattens out before it reaches its highest point, you have thrown it too horizontal--throw higher, or more vertical.

Tuning MTAs may be necessary from time to time. Gently bending the arms will change the flight. Stability is gained by bending positive angle of attack into the tip of the lift arm, negative angle of attack into the dingle arm, or dihedral into dingle arm. Height is gained by bending dihedral into tips of lift arm or dingle arm. Avoid bending in elbow area. Your best bet is to stick with two keys: 1) for STABILITY, bend positive angle of attack into lift arm tip; 2) for HEIGHT, bend dihedral into dingle tip, then if you want more height try the lift arm tip. Remember: throw easy at first, and be gentle when tuning.

Tuning Phenolic or Plastic Three-Winged Trick Catch Booms
Flaps will reduce spin and can help to produce a predictable hover. Bending positive angle of attack will: 1) make it turn quicker and shorten the range; 2) prevent "S" flights by adding stability. Negative angle of attack will cause the boom to turn slower and have a longer range. Dihedral will cause the boom to fly higher. Negative dihedral will make the boom fly lower.

Tuning Phenolic or Plastic Three-Winged Doublers
The tuning tips are the same as stated in the above Three-Winged Trick Catch section. The key to Doubling is to have two booms that are thrown with the same elevation, layover and velocity, but have different resulting flights. The Insider should have flaps on the top of each wing and positive angle of attack bent into one or more wing/wings. The flaps will reduce spin and cause it to drop faster than the Outsider. The positive angle of attack will cause it to turn more quickly than the Outsider and prevent "clicking." Hold the Insider on top of the Outsider. If they do click, bend positive angle of attack into the Insider, or bend negative angle of attack into the Outsider. Be careful when adding negative angle of attack, because too much will cause the boom to have an unpredictable "S' flight. Weights are sometimes helpful in wind. Tape one weight on each wing. The Insider weights should be on the top and close to the center. The Outsider weights should be on the bottom and should be close to the wing-tips so the Outsider travels further and will set up in front of you.

Get out and methodically experiment! The empirical results will cause you to smile because knowledge has been attained. Experiments over time will yield improvements in your ability to throw and catch.

Practicing over time with your friends is fun. That is the equation that has worked for me.

Gel Boomerangs
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Last updated June 16, 2006.
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