Easdale, around ten miles to the south of Oban, is the smallest permanently inhabited island in the Inner Hebrides, and a disused slate quarry forms the perfect venue for a unique sporting-meets-social event, the annual World Skimming Championships.
Anyone can enter, regardless of age or skill, and each competitor has three skims using special Easdale slate skimming stones. To qualify, a stone must bounce at least three times, and it is then judged on the distance achieved before it sinks.
“Stone skimming has taken off,” says organiser Sandra Melville, “perhaps because it’s something everyone does - everyone has skimmed stones at some point. It’s a sense of fun, very much a tongue-in-cheek kind of event but at the same time there are set rules. It’s organised fun, if you like.”
The event was resurrected in 1997, having lain fallow since 1983, and helped to fund the building of the community hall. The popularity and profile of the event is steadily increasing: 2007 saw 231 entrants, up 12 on the previous year.
The island slate is very soft, and makes a perfect size and shape for skimming. Four or five bucket-loads of stones are collected before each event.
The 2007 champion, and the only person to hit the back wall of the harbour, was Dougie Issacs, who also won 2005. “Ideally you want extremely calm water with no wind,” he says. He practices by skimming stones on the river near his home in Blairgowrie, and his personal-best skim is 120 metres. The back wall at Easdale is a mere 61 metres.
For the 2007 championships the neighbouring community from Seil came over and ran the barbecue, in return for some of the funds, a good example of two communities working together.