Tuna Toss World Championships

tuna toss

If you thought the oddest things to be thrown around for sport these days were big balls of heavy metal or sharp pointy sticks, you would be in for a rude (but really an incredibly entertaining) awakening if you visited Port Lincoln in South Australia. For the last 52 years, Port Lincoln has been home to the Tunarama Festival, the main event of which now involves the Tuna Toss World Championships. And yes this competition entails exactly what its name suggests – tossing tuna.

Practiced tuna tossers from all over the world gather each year at the Tuna Toss Championships to show off their strength, power and skill in launching these large fish over incredibly distances. The flashing of the scales as it soars the air and catches the shimmering glint of the sun is a coalescence of incredible human willpower and natural beauty that few things in the world would be able to achieve.

tuna tossing

The origins of the Tuna Tossing Competition lie, naturally, in Port Lincoln’s rich fishing culture and heritage. It was back in the year 1979 when some members of the Tunarama community were looking to spice up their annual festival – they needed a unique and exciting event to make the festival bigger and draw in more crowds. Yet after a few attempts, nothing seemed to stick or be quite what they were looking for. Suddenly, some men noticed the arduous and physical method the fishermen used to load fish from the boats to the trucks. It was an entrenched custom for the local fishers to have to demonstrate they could throw a fish a considerable distance before being accepted to work each day. Back then the reward was simply earning the luxury of a hard-day’s work, and of course a hard-day’s pay. However, the Festival Committee saw potential to turn this skillful task into a heavy duty competition with $3,000 now up for grabs that could be the feature of the Tunarama Festival.

After testing out fish sizes and methods, the festival organisers settled upon using a 20Lb fish with a rope handle attached that competitors could heave into the air. At the first competitions, considerable crowds were drawn to witness the the biggest, burliest men fighting it out to see who they thought would be the strongest man. However, much to everyone’s surprise, the smallest guy there, a simple teacher from the town stepped up to the mark and beat all the other men’s distances by metres. Shocked and emasculated, the other competitors soon learnt that the winner, John Penny, had been an ex-Olympian Hammer Thrower. This set the precedent for the fierce competition that was to follow for the years to come and incited men to train for the event and for competitors from all over the world to come put their refined skills to the test.tuna toss

The current tuna toss record holders for men and women are a whopping 37.23m and 21.25m respectively. The competition is the highlight of the Tunarama Festival which also holds a whole suite of other competitions ranging from boat building to keg rolling to watermelon eating. As well as this, the festival features exquisite local wine and cuisine, fireworks, a gala ball, heaps of entertainment activities, music shows and special guests. Checkout the Tunarama Festival website to book in your tuna toss experience for January 2014.


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