Regional | Bombing

Inaugural Manu Masters champion unveiled

Northland's bombing community gathered on the weekend for the inaugural Manu Masters, one of the final events of this year's Matariki Pēwhairangi Festival.

More than 30 contestants braved the chilly waters of Russell Wharf to battle it out for the title of inaugural champion and a piece of the $1000 prize money.

The contestants' age ranged from seven to 69 years old, and attracted a wide range of competitors. Matariki Pēwhairangi Festival director Jackie Sanders says the idea for Manu Masters came from Anton Haagh from the Duke of Marlborough, in an attempt to attract people back to Russell after a couple of tough years.

"Who to blame? You can blame Anton from the Duke of Marlborough. The boys there were really keen to see a Manu Masters happen. They've been talking about it for years. The annual Birdman happens here every July normally but it hasn't been able to happen for a couple of years due to Covid."

She says the competitors were judged by a team of three, with three crucial criteria.

"They were judged on style, and how they approach it. The splash, it's all about height, and spirit. Wairua."

Eight degrees ...

So what style would be needed to win the inaugural title?

Rewi Spraggon, hāngī master and Manu Masters competitor, brought the old school approach, with his array of bombs, including one particular attempt receiving a perfect ten from the judges.

"There's the old Coffin, the Staple, the Gorilla. A lot of these young fellas just call it Manus these days but the ultimate technique is the Buddha. It's a peaceful praying technique."

Despite the height of the bombing apparatus, which towered over the wharf, it was the water temperature that proved to be the hardest obstacle to overcome, with the temperature being a chilly 8 degrees.

Competitor Whitianga Bedggood-Kaiawe says it's an unusual time of year for the bombing.

"I haven't Manued in a while. All the brothers we don't really bomb in winter. We are usually inside. Summertime is Manu time."

Mark Wātene of Moerewa is the inaugural Manu Masters winner, and, the other 'manu masters' are expected for another bombing run next year.