History of Tunarama: Home of the Tuna Toss.
Ever found yourself wondering how far you might be able to throw a 10kg rubber fish? Or wondering if you’d be able to slide 10 meters along a slippery pole without falling off? Or maybe you just want to taste some of the freshest seafood that Australia has to offer? Then you need to head over to the 2019 Port Lincoln Tunarama Festival. There really is nothing quite like it.
Where It All Began
Traditionally, locals would gather on the Port Lincoln foreshore to help send off loved ones in fishing vessels that would head out to sea for months at a time. A local priest would ‘bless’ the ships and everyone would hope for their safe return.
In 1962, this annual gathering turned into a seaside celebration to attract tourists. Now in its 58th year, the Tunarama Festival brings together people of all ages to celebrate the fishing industry that forms the backbone of this small town. Held over the Australia Day long weekend, the festival showcases the best of the local produce, crafts, and talent.
World Championship Tuna Toss:
Arguably, the most iconic event held across the weekend is the World Championship Tuna Toss.
From laborious task to iconic event, the World Championship Tuna Toss has become a much-loved event by all who visit the Tunarama festival. Started in 1979, the idea came from a simple observation that the primary method of unloading overflowing fishing vessels was a manual and physically demanding task. From the decks of boats, men would haul these mighty fish up onto the waiting trucks, testing their strength with every toss.
In search of a few hours work, local men would line up and attempt a simple test; throwing a tuna as far as they could. Those who threw the fish the furthest were awarded a days work. This soon became less about the day’s work and more about the pride and bragging rights that came with being the best thrower on any given day. The boys would boast afterwards, seeing how many days work they gained over the busy period and how far they launched their fish.
Task to test
Luckily, the Tunarama festival fell around the time that fish were in plentiful supply and so the idea of a tuna toss competition was born. The idea was further developed and the very first tuna toss was held in 1979. Hundreds of men lined up to see how far they could through the heavy fish.
After watching some of the biggest local fishermen take their turns, a local teacher (and ex hammer-thrower) stepped up to the plate. To most people’s disbelief, he threw the fish way beyond where it had been thrown previously. Shocked and outdone, many men vowed to better their skills and return the next year for another attempt.
Now including both genders, and featuring a rubber tuna, the event has become world-renowned. Competitors travel from all over the world to see how far they can throw this mighty fish. The current world record is 37.23m and was set in 1998 by an Australian hammer thrower, Sean Carlin. The female record is 21.25m, set by Brooke Krueger.
Maybe you have what it takes to be the next record holder?
Other Iconic Events:
Along with the tuna toss, the annual Tunarama Street Procession is not to be missed. Boasting colourful floats, dancers, musicians and costumed characters, the processions makes its way through Port Lincoln at midday on January 26th. Prizes are awarded for Best Clown, Best Decorated Business Float, Best Community Float, Best Live Music Float and Most Humorous Entry.
Teams of two are allowed 2 hours to build a boat using only materials provided and are then required to race to the end of the town jetty and back. Good luck making not sinking!
Make your way along a 5-metre pole and back without falling off into the water. Of course, the pole wobbles, rotates and is kept seriously greased and slippery. Makes for very entertaining viewing.
If none of those options tickles your fancy, there are a range of other competitions including the Surf Beach Bod Comp, Commando Course, Prawn Peeling, Best Dressed Boat, Keg Roll, Swim through, Tug-’O’-War and plenty more.
This year’s festival will be held from 24th-27th January and a full programme can be found here:
Go and check it out and we hope to see you there!