All Hail the Manu King

The art of the bomb

First there is the rush of weightlessness as you fall, then the shock of plunging into cold water, followed by a kind of calm satisfaction as you float up afterwards. Whether it’s diving off a cliff into a river swimming hole, or leaping from a wharf into the ocean, jumping from heights is a favourite summer pastime for many, myself included.

Some confidently dive in headfirst, others crouch down and gingerly drop off the edge as if trying to make the distance to the water less. For some jumpers, usually young men, the goal is to make biggest splash possible. They climb higher, pushed upwards by bravado, and hit the water with staples, belly flops and bombs, producing great plumes of water and even greater waves of peer approval. The more adventurous show off with wild flips, but for others the manu bomb is preferred the method for inundating bystanders.

For those only familiar with the regular cannonball style bomb, the manu bomb involves entering the water backside first with your legs held up so that you make a v-shape. It is a popular and crowd-pleasing method in many New Zealand towns and there is even a reigning Manu King in Tauranga.

Not so interested in impressing my friends and with a natural instinct for caution, my own jumping style involves hurling myself off the edge before any thought of backing out enters my mind. The freefall is a rush of adrenaline, my limbs flailing and eyes wide, and my entry into the water is without form. Afterwards there is relief at being unharmed and the same sort of euphoric high you get from scary theme park ride. Inevitably, without any peer pressure I climb back up to jump again, seeking that fleeting feeling one more time.