Colourful characters

Stone Skimming Competition

By David Bramwell

Last summer I was fortunate enough to attend the Tomatina festival in Spain. If you don't know it by name, you've probably seen it in an advert - twenty thousand people, two tonnes of tomatoes and one god-almighty food fight in the streets of a small Spanish village.

Something simple and silly
And it's always struck me how Brighton, particularly nowadays - with the town obscenely packaged and over-priced - could benefit from a similarly ludicrous tradition, like in the days when people would cycle off the end of the pier for the sheer hell of it. Something simple, silly, free to all, utterly pointless, and nothing the council could get their grubby little hands on.

No random drug tests
And so it was to my utter delight that, ambling down Brighton seafront one sunny Sunday afternoon in September, I stumbled upon a tiny marquee on the beach, bearing the banner - '4th Annual John Lidbetter All-Weather Prize International Open Stone Skimming Competition'.  Intrigued and excited I ventured over to the marquee where I was handed a set of rules and given a guarantee that there would be 'no random drug tests'. The rules seemed perfectly simple - each contestant was to be given three stones for three skims, and whoever scored the highest was the winner. In front of me on a table lay the top three prizes - a can of Special Brew, a bottle of Bishop's Finger, champagne, and three engraved trophies.

'Fatboyskim' tries his hand
Having joined the crowd of on-lookers and competitors down on the seafront, I greeted my host, John Lidbetter, resplendent in top hat and velvet jacket, gave my 'Skim name' to the judges (I chose 'Fatboyskim'), was handed my three stones and eagerly awaited my turn.

Not bad for a first timer
So, how did I fare? I got nine. Not bad for a first-timer, by all accounts. This year's winner, 'Bird', however, managed to break the world record by getting ten skims with just one stone. Another contestant, Flo, actually succeeded - with one of her throws - to miss the sea all together! It has to be said that a jolly old time was had by all, and at the end, after prizes were handed out, speeches made and tears shed, John wistfully commented, 'I love this competition, it's such a beautiful and simple thing. A metaphor for bouncing on the sea of life.'

A tradition that Brighton has always deserved
Under the guidance of the charming and altruistic Mr Lidbetter, I firmly believe that Brighton's All-Weather Prize International Open Stone Skimming Competition' really could be the tradition that Brighton has always deserved. And with a little publicity and support it could grow to rival even Fatboyslim's beach parties (except this time people would be coming to bounce stones on the sea, rather than just to wee in it). A final word of advice though, knowing how redundant Brighton beach is for flat stones, I'd recommend starting your searches now for those three perfect bouncers, and I'll see you in ten months time for the 'skim-off'.

This is one of a series of articles by David Bramwell published in the Insight between 2001-2004. David Bramwell is the author of the Cheeky Guide to Brighton.
Added to the site on 12-05-05 
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page

I too attended the annual stoneskimming competition on Brighton beach and enjoyed the random characters and enthusiasm of the organisers very much. But I would hasten to add that, although I appreciate David's point that this is the sort of eccentric gathering Brighton should support, the beauty was that it was small and manageable. Should the rest of Brighton get in on the act, it too would be ruined just as many other 'local' celebrations have. Most originated as a social event for pro-active members of the local communities and spawned out of control only to be disallowed for 'health and safety reasons'. We would not like to see the Stoneskimming championships go the same way.

By Stoneskimming fan (09/12/2006)

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