‘Rangs Away!

U.S. Boomerang Team

U.S. Boomerang Team

Huh? That may have been the first reaction of customers who opened our Fall 1982 catalog to find a story about the U.S. Boomerang Team and its “historic challenge Down Under.”

We quote:

“November, 1981. The upstart United States Boomerang Team arrives in Australia, ready to challenge the Aussies at their native sport. They are outfitted in adventuresome Lands’ End sportswear and soft luggage. The Americans and Australians match ‘rangs for three weeks, competing in the five standard events of boomerang competition: Maximum Time Aloft, Fast Catching, Accuracy Throw, Distance Throw and Australian Round. To everyone’s surprise, the U.S. team wins most of its matches.”

It seems like just yesterday when the U.S. team came to visit our original retail store at 2317 North Elston in Chicago. What a fun, friendly bunch! One of them, Chet Snouffer, was a bit of an acrobat too – he could toss his boomerang, do a front or back flip, then catch the ‘rang on its return.  We tried throwing one, and heard the sound of breaking glass.

Why partner up with the U.S. Boomerang Team? Well, it gave us an excuse to offer colorful 100% cotton “Boomerang Shirts,” for one thing.

(Also matching pants, shorts and skirts, in a later issue, and even a small crooked nylon “duffle” to carry a boomerang in. We kid you not.)

But more than that, we just liked the upstart spirit of the sport, and the enthusiasm of the team. They were trying to get people involved in something they loved, just like we were in those early days of Lands’ End. We admired their spunk.

So has boomeranging caught on? It’s hanging in there. According to U.S. Boomerang Association president David Hirsch, the boomerang community is made up of competitors and crafters. The competitors, 100 or so hard-core types, hold a half dozen tournaments each year, including the nationals, and compete to play for a U.S. team that participates in the Boomerang World Cup, held every two years, with the 2012 worlds in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“Our top guys are true world-class athletes,” says Hirsch, “ but we can’t seem to get kids interested in competing. They think it’s neat, when they see us throwing, but they don’t stick with it.”

The crafters create “art booms,” beautifully carved and painted boomerangs that are highly collectible, and can sell for hundreds of dollars. Hirsch himself has a modest collection – “500 or so” – but mentions a friend in Ohio who has almost 40,000.  Why so many? “People collect for three reasons,” says Hirsch. “Every boomerang flies differently. You need different booms for different competitive events. And of course, for the pure art aspect.”

Collecting booms is no new fad – King Tut had several, including a bone beauty tipped in gold.

Will boomerangs ever appear again at Lands’ End?  Not likely, but we encourage you to get your hands on one and try this quirky sport that has fascinated humans for centuries. We promise you many happy returns.

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