Saturday, November 27, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tanna, Tommy (c1869- ?)
Tommy Tanna, a South Pacific Islander, is widely credited with introducing body surfing, or surf shooting, to Australia in Sydney around 1890. Little is known about Tanna, including his real name and his place of origin. ‘Tommy Tanna’ was a common nickname for any Kanaka male, derived from the fact that a significant proportion of indentured labourers in Australia came from the island of Tanna in the South Hebrides, now part of Vanuatu.
In his recollections, Arthur M Lowe says that Tommy Tanna was employed as a gardener for the Moore family of Manly around the late 1880s and 1890s, where he lived in well-kept quarters at the bottom of the garden at ‘Tramore’, corner of Addison Road and Darley Road. Tanna fished and swam at South Steyne daily before 7am, when beach inspectors enforced the by-laws prohibited daylight bathing. His routine was to check
his self-made, basket, fish traps, put in a rock pool any fish caught, rebait (with rump steak) and reset traps, and then dive from Rocks Point at South Steyne to swim and surf-shoot. Lowe met Tanna through his school friend Eric Moore when he was ten years old, in about 1889, and describes him as follows: ‘He was about 20 odd years of age [in 1889], with a good-looking Islander’s type of face, fairly tall, with an athletic figure, and close crinkly hair’. Tanna taught Lowe and Eric Moore how to shoot waves from the deep water at South Steyne. Lowe wrote that Tanna’s shooting style always involved a degree of swimming, unlike the ‘perfect shooting’ developed later in Manly. Tanna taught others to body surf, including, it is thought, Fred C Williams. Swimming identity Arthur Rosenthal wrote that a South Sea Islander
introduced surf shooting to Williams, who in turn taught a new generation.
Source: Biographical Dictionary for Manly