Hastings prepares for big splash as manu masters head to competition

The secret to landing a good manu is tucking your legs in up against your chest, says the judge of Havelock North's Mai Manu bombing competition, Peleti Oli.

Manu masters are descending on a Hastings pool on Saturday in a bid to become the district’s next bomb champion.

The Mai Manu bombing competition is being held at the Havelock North Village pool again, after about 100 people entered the inaugural event last year.

Back on judging duties was former Hastings District councillor Peleti Oli, who was looking forward to selecting the 2023 Hastings Bomb Squad that will compete in the Gisborne Tairāwhiti Bomb Comp.

“Hastings has its own manu flavour, which is lots of air then into a nice-shaped tuck, so I will be keeping my eye out for that signature Hastings ‘king tuck’, and looking for style, flair, character, and most of all creativity,” Oli said.

Hastings had the best bombers in the country, he claimed - but he was happy to stay on the judging bench rather than show others how it was done.

“Unfortunately [at] my age, I’ve gained a bit of weight around my abdominal area, so I’m carrying a bit of a spare tyre, and the secret to landing a good manu is tucking your legs in up against your chest, and I just can’t seem to get that technique locked.”

The competition was about bringing together whānau and celebrating an Aotearoa summer staple, he said.

Luke Tihema (left) took out the bronze medal in 2022.

Last year’s bronze medalist, Luke Tihema, will be back for a second attempt at the glory - and the 43-year-old said it would be a battle of youth versus experience.

Having spent more than three decades perfecting his technique, he had some advice for other competitors: you can only improve by doing lots of manus, and making lots of mistakes.

“One of the bombs I did to come third was a backbreaker, which is, kind of going in head first and then kind of scrunching over and the water splashes up between your legs.

“When I was about 10 I smacked my head on the bottom of the pool and I had this big bump, and because of that I learned how not to do it.”

About 100 people entered the inaugural Mai Manu bombing competition in Havelock North last year.

The manu was a big part of Tihema’s childhood, he said - and it was a whānau affair, with his brothers, sister, cousins, nieces and nephews all hitting the pool to try and out-perform each other.

“As a kid during the summer, we would walk to the local pools as a community, and all of us would spend the whole day there.

“I guess one of the things we like was feeding off each other, not knowing if we were gonna land the bomb or the manu or not, because we would jump in and listen for the sound underneath the water but not know if it was reka (sweet) or not.

“We kinda had instant feedback if the boys would laugh at you if you smashed your back on the water.”

The Havelock North Village Pool will be open from 10am to 6pm on Saturday, with the competition kicking off at 11am.

Entry is free and all are welcome as participants or spectators, Hastings District Council said.