The John Lidbetter All-Weather Prize International Stone-skimming Competition is Da Nang’s Kentucky Derby, where the garishly dressed gather to drink cocktails in excess and take part in an obscure sport that’s easy to gamble on. It’s also one hell of a good time.
Registration kicked off at a crisp 12:30 on a sun-soaked afternoon at The Dawn on My Khe Beach. Ambitious skimmers began to gather, register under their nom de skim (a pseudonym that should include the word skim if at all possible), rigorously select their three allotted stones from those provided, and down the obligatory beers and cocktails to loosen the limbs for the afternoon’s athletics.
The food, provided by Taco Ngon and Eastside Fish & Chips, was as delicious as always and the perfect nourishment for the constitution of any dedicated skimmer. As the skimmers loosened up and the proceedings got underway, resident skimming don, John Lidbetter, dashingly dressed in a straw fedora, shouted the rules and regulations via candy-red megaphone.
The rules were elaborate, but fair—the stone must last touch the human body before the water, no slings or other apparatuses may be used, competitors will not be drug tested as a matter of principle, etc. A style prize was to be awarded to the most gallant or coquettish of the skimmers.
Three judges, marked by their purple sashes, were in attendance to count the number of skims. The sobriety of two of the judges was questionable, but no instances of bribery or untoward motives swayed them from their duties (to this writer’s knowledge).
At about 3:00pm, the gaggle of about fifty skimmers migrated to the beach, stones in hand. They gathered in a half-crescent to spectate as Mr. Lidbetter tossed the inaugural skim to raucous applause. The air was filled with much gaiety. Stones ricocheted off azure water. Backs were clapped. Heads were shaken on off tosses. Judges dutifully tallied skims—all the usual marks of top-class athletic competition.
At the end of the day, with the last stone sunk and the last beer clasped from its silver tray toted by the good-humored Dawn staff bedecked in sky blue Hawaiian shirts, the prize of a bottle of champagne was awarded to the top skimmer—nobody really remembers who—and a Frenchman in a suit took home the second bottle as a style prize for his natty dressing.
The John Lidbetter All-Weather Prize International Stone-skimming Competition is a well-known annual event awaited by Da Nang locals with much eagerness and trepidation. Be sure to mark the date for your next visit to this lovely slice of beach.