He made it look so easy. After gauging the wind blowing across Southwest Community Park in Oxnard, Robert Harrington adjusted the angle of his throw so the boomerang he tossed into the sky seemed to effortlessly form an elliptical arc, heading back to hover in the air where he was standing.
But the young teens from the adjacent Martin V. Smith Boys & Girls Club of Oxnard and Port Hueneme struggled on Friday as they tried to figure out how to throw handmade boomerangs. Many sent the carved sticks bouncing along the ground.
Leo Williams, 13, seemed to get the hang of it. But his friends cried, "He just got lucky."
Leo said luck had nothing to do with it.
"I was here the last time (Harrington) came," Leo said before explaining what he likes about boomerangs. "I like how it soars in the air and cuts back."
Cody Bowen, of Oxnard, heads up the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center, where kids 13-18 can join The Club for regular events and just hang out and meet others their age.
"Usually they are brought in by a parent or foster parents, but they love coming and they start to come on their own," Bowen said.
The boomerang workshop was part of The Club's outdoor adventure program, which includes hiking, camping and kayaking, Bowen said.
One of the first girls to throw the boomerang, Nox Ncube, 13, said she threw a boomerang when she was in second grade in her native South Africa.
"It's really fun. I like how it comes around," she said.
The Boys & Girls Club has been a great place for her to fit in, Nox said.
"It's very exciting," she said. "I've made a lot of new friends. Everyone's nice."
Harrington said he got interested in boomerangs in the early 1980s when a friend introduced him to the unique implement.
"My friend gave me a piece of wood and some sandpaper and told me to make my own boomerang. It took me a few weeks to figure out how to throw it, but that's because I'm dyslexic and I made my boomerang backward, for a left-handed person, which is why it took me a few weeks to throw it," he said.
The friends formed a boomerang company and sold the tools on a commission basis from Malibu to Santa Barbara. Later, the company folded.
Three years ago, Harrington's wife, Teresa Wejmar, had friends who were getting married in Costa Rica. As a present, Harrington was commissioned to craft boomerangs for the wedding party. Every time he tried them out on the beach in front of his Silver Strand home, people would approach him and ask to buy them.
He started making the boomerangs again and he has developed a program to teach kids how to throw them safely. He said he hopes to make a living out of the carefully handcrafted carved and painted sticks, which sell on eBay for $50 and up, although he also works as a bartender and stay-at-home dad to son Lukas, 16 months, who is trying to learn to throw the boomerangs. Son Jacob, 12, is already quite proficient with the sticks, Harrington said.