“If you try to skim a heavy stone you will find that it almost splashes down quite deep into the water and stays in contact with the water for a long time,” Dr Palmer said.
“But then, if it’s successful, you’ll suddenly see it emerging out of the water as it leaps to a great height. If you throw it arms-height into the water, it might bounce out twice as high.
“I think it encourages you to maybe pick up stones that you wouldn’t normally pick up to see if you can get these exciting leaps out of them.
“I always enjoy picking up these obscure stones and throwing them as hard as I can at the water to get these big leaps. It wows my kids because it looks very different to lots of nice little skinny ones.
“You get these big dramatic leaps out of the water but often only one or two skims at most. You don’t often get lots of jumps out of them.”
But Dr Palmer said that the ideal stone for skimming depends on the thrower and what they want out of their toss.
“When people ask what the perfect skimmer is, it depends on what you want. If you’re talking about something that does lots of skips then the classic flat, medium weight, round sort of thing is always good,” he explained.
“But if you want big and dramatic, go for something that’s maybe heavier and slightly more curved than you’d normally pick and you’ll see some quite exciting things.
“We are not saying you can start throwing bricks at the water and they will skim – it still needs to be relatively slender and thin – but I’ve picked up a knobbly stone here and there that’s a bit more like a potato than a skimmer and you can still get a good bounce out of them. That’s always good fun.”
‘A greater range of shapes can skim’
The results also reveal that if you are struggling to skim stones at all then finding a slightly more round object is a good idea as the curves help with getting it to skip.
The more curved a stone is, the fewer skips it will produce, but the more likely it is to skip in the first place.
“All of this is basically to say that a greater range of shapes can skim. For the layman on the lake this means you can try out a broader range of stones to see if you can get some exciting bounces out of them,” Dr Palmer told The Telegraph.
And if you want to make a stone fly as high in the air as possible, a heavy, curved stone is best.
“The closer you get to sinking without sinking, the bigger that leap upwards is going to be,” Dr Palmer explained. “The more curved the body is, it allows for a heavier stone to skim.
“Heavier stones essentially make contact with the water layer for longer so create a greater amount of pressure underneath the rock. Because it stays in contact for longer, you get a higher pressure and therefore a greater force across the stone.”
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.