IronMāori made its long-awaited return to Ahuriri, Hawke's Bay this weekend after a two-year holding period due to Covid-19 disruptions and it was a great success with record numbers competing.
"To have people return has been amazing and the vibe has been electric. Everyone’s fizzing and it’s pretty good,” says IronMāori founder Heather Te Au Skipworth.
Skipworth (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, Ngāi Tahu) says, although she is excited about the return of the event, health and safety of the competitors were also at the front of her mind.
“There are two emotions. Anxiety, because you’ve got so many people’s lives in your hands for the day. There were close to 3000 so there is a bit of anxiety."
IronMāori was first conceived in 2009 along the Ahuriri Estuary and this year celebrates its 13th birthday.
Skipworth says the event grew from 274 in the first year. "It blows you away that this many people believe in the kaupapa, believe in themselves to be the best they can be. It’s almost overwhelming.”
IronMāori has seen a turnout of all whānau no matter the age, from rangatahi to kaumātua alike.
“The youngest would be 16 and the oldest today is 72 for the individual half,” she says.
The competitions range from the quarter to half IronMāori and competitors can choose to either compete solo or in a team.
This year many iwi teams were involved from Taranaki, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, Ngāti Whātua ki Orākei, as well as teams from Mātaatua.
Skipworth says iwi are crucial to this kaupapa.
“It’s really important because everything starts from our marae, hapū, then our iwi.
"Competition is who we are as Māori, so it’s a good thing. It shows the kaupapa is still there for what we intended it to be, for grassroots, although it is nice to have the pointed end of the field, but we’re definitely here for the whānau at a grassroots level.”
In December IronMāori Toa will be taking place again in Ahuriri with a full-length triathlon, a 3.8 km swim, a 180km cycle and a 42.2 km run.