Tom Denniss (born 24 February 1961) is an Australian athlete, inventor, scientist, and entrepreneur. A Doctor of Mathematics and Oceanography, he invented a technology to convert energy in ocean waves into electricity, founded a company to commercialise that technology (originally named Energetech Australia Pty Ltd in 1997, later changed to Oceanlinx Ltd in 2007), played professional rugby league, was a finalist in the Australian of the Year Award, and in 2013 set a new world record for the Fastest Circumnavigation of the Earth on Foot. In October 2016, Denniss co-founded Wave Swell Energy with a technology expected to make wave energy commercially viable for the first time.
Denniss was born in 1961 in Wollongong, 80 km south of Sydney, Australia. He attended Warilla North Primary School from 1966 to 1973, and Lake Illawarra High School from 1974 to 1979, and was Student Council President at high school in 1979. From 1980 to 1982 Denniss completed a degree in Mathematics at the University of Wollongong, and a Diploma in Education from the University of New South Wales in 1983.
A professional musician in his early life, Denniss has played to international audiences in eight different countries.
Initially a high school maths teacher, Denniss taught at Newtown High School in Sydney from 1984 to 1990. While working at Newtown High, he attended UNSW part-time during 1988/89, obtaining a First Class Honours degree in Science. In 1990 Denniss left teaching to pursue a PhD in Mathematics and Oceanography at the same university. While completing his doctorate, from 1990 to 1994, he was an Associate Lecturer in the School of Mathematics at UNSW.
From 1994 to 1999, Denniss worked at Macquarie Bank, a leading Australian investment bank. During this period he founded Energetech Australia and, during his spare time, began commercialising the wave energy technology he had earlier invented. In 1999 Denniss became full-time CEO of Energetech Australia.
In late 2004, Denniss stood aside as the CEO of Energetech, but continued in the role of Chief Technology Officer of the company. In 2005 he was invited by Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General, to be a member of the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, serving on this forum until 2009. In 2006 the wave energy technology Denniss invented was named by the US based International Academy of Science as one of Ten Most Outstanding Technologies in the World. At a ceremony in Hawaii in 2007, Denniss was the first person to be inducted into the International Ocean Energy Hall of Fame as an ocean energy pioneer. In Shenzhen, China, in 2009, his innovative technology was ranked third by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in its annual list of the Top Ten Renewable Energy Investment Opportunities in the World.
Denniss served as the Australian Government's representative on the International Energy Agency's Ocean Energy Systems Committee from 2007 to 2011 and on the Australian Government's Advisory Board for the Clean Energy Innovation Centre in 2010/11. In October 2016, Denniss co-founded Wave Swell Energy with a technology widely predicted to make wave energy commercially viable for the first time.
On 31 December 2011, Denniss began a quest to run around the world. He set a new world record and while doing so raised money for Oxfam. Dennis completed the 26,232 km journey on 13 September 2013, becoming just the second person to successfully complete a fully documented world run according to the rules defined by the sport's international governing body, the World Runners Association, in the process setting a new world record of 622 days for the Fastest Circumnavigation of the Earth on Foot. His accomplishment was the equivalent of running 622 marathons in 622 days in extremes of heat and cold.
Denniss was a member of the Warilla North Primary School 4 x 100-metre relay team which won three consecutive New South Wales state titles from 1971 to 1973, setting state records in 1971 (Junior Boys 57.4 sec) and 1973 (Senior Boys 52.7 sec). He was also a member of the Lake Illawarra High 15 years 4 x 100-metre relay team in 1976 which won the New South Wales Combined High Schools state title in record time (45.4 sec).
As a 17-year-old in 1978, Denniss was selected as a reserve in the NSW Combined High Schools Rugby League team. The same year he was chosen to play first grade for the Warilla-Lake South Gorillas rugby league team in the NSW South Coast Rugby League competition. He was a regular First Grader until his retirement from the game in late 1982, the same year he was selected to play in the NSW Country Team in the NSWRL's annual City versus Country match. Denniss was also the leading try scorer in the South Coast competition in 1980 and 1981 for the "Warilla Gorillas".
Denniss has also run 100 metres in 10.90 seconds (24 July 1978) and 100 km in 9 hours 26 mins 12 secs (2 May 2008). It has been postulated he is the only person ever to have run both 100 metres in less than 11 seconds and 100 km in less than 11 hours. Denniss also won the 2015 Icarus Ultrafest 12 hour race in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and placed 3rd overall in the 250 km six day Great Red Race in Australia’s Simpson Desert in June 2017.
Awards, records, and recognition
- 2005 – Member of the Global Roundtable on Climate Change
- 2006 – The wave energy technology invented by Denniss named by the US based International Academy of Science as one of Ten Most Outstanding Technologies in the World
- 2007 – First person to be inducted into the International Ocean Energy Hall of Fame
- 2014 – Finalist in the Australian of the Year Awards
- 2014 – Officially awarded the world record for the Fastest Circumnavigation of the Earth on Foot by the sport's governing body, the World Runners Association.
Tom Denniss, The World At My Feet 1 July 2015 – autobiographical account of his world run
- ABC News 2013 Sydney Runner Becomes Fastest Man to Circle Globe on Foot, 13 September 2013 ABC TV; retrieved 11 November 2014.
- ESPN Aussies Abroad, 2014
- Lake Illawarra High School hall of fame, 2009; NSW Department of Education and Communities; retrieved 10 November 2014.
- Alumni News – University of Wollongong, 2014
- "Who's This Tom Guy"; Tom's Next Step blog; retrieved 17 November 2014.
- World Records; World Runners Association, 2014 retrieved 13 November 2014.
- Australian of the Year Awards; Australian of the Year Honour Roll, 2014; retrieved 12 November 2014.
- "Oceanlinx – Company Overview for Potential Investors", 2011; The Mayne Report p.3; retrieved 10 November 2014.
- Clean Energy and Environment Directory; Austrade 2012, p. 174; retrieved 11 November 2014.
- Tom Denniss (24 June 2015). The World at My Feet: The Extraordinary Story of the Record-Breaking Fastest Run Around the Earth. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-76011-209-7.