Maunga to moana race reconnects competitors to their culture and whenua

By Jessica Tyson

The annual Maunga to Moana multi-sport adventure race proved to be a great success over the weekend as hundreds from across the country united in Te Tairāwhiti to compete.

The 54km race comprises a 22km hike up and down Hikurangi, a 25km bike ride through Tapuaeroa Valley to Ruatorea and a 5km gravel and river run or walk to the ocean at Tuparoa Beach.

The event was founded by Keelan Poi who served in the NZ Army for nine years until 2018 and still serves as a reservist.

“We created this event to build resilience and team building within our soldiers and then I was able to take that concept and open it to the public,” Poi says

A race like no other

As well as the hike, bike and run, the race included different team-building activities, not in any other multi-sport race in Aotearoa.

“We’ve had plucking possums. Previously we’ve had filleting flounder, which was a bit of a hard-case one. Mustering sheep into paddocks using different coloured coordinated spray paint on sheep so just things like that that mix it up for our competitors.”

With the different activities along the way, the race is full of surprises.

“Over the weekend we had one of the fastest people come down off Hikurangi and he was an athlete … Then the first task was a shooting competition with a gun and corn and he was trying to shoot them and he actually got passed by three ladies. He was there for 15 minutes and he said it evened out the playing field."

Poi says the race tries to bring all competitors to the same level.

“It’s not just for rabbits, it’s for whānau who have iron pukus as well. So we have a couple of eating challenges. Last year was a blindfolded eating kina challenge and this year we had different kai provided from Food Cartel there in Gisborne.”

The kai this year included kina juice and rotten corn “that they had to try power through depending on what number they got in one of their mystery tasks,” Poi says.

“That was the whole idea. So you’ve got people from all walks of life coming to have a crack at our kaupapa and we wanted to be able to give them the experience that we have here on the coast as well so it’s not just to come here and race. It’s to be a part of the whole culture, a part of our experience here.”

Overall, about 280 competitors raced in three sections including the teams of five, teams of three and the individuals.

“The overall winner of the individual was Tom Holden from Gisborne. He cracked it in three hours and 52 minutes,” Poi says.

The winner from the teams of three was the Crazy Kinas. Meanwhile, the team Four Horis and a Token won for the teams of five.

Culture and whenua

Poi says the event is “not about the racing. It’s actually about the culture.”

“It’s about bringing whānau to the coast giving them the option if they’re Nātis or if they’re people who are from this area, allowing them the opportunity to reconnect with their whenua, their whānau and come in and share with the community. So that’s what it is for our whānau from home.”

For manuhiri (guests) who have never visited the coast, Poi says the race is a perfect opportunity to show them the beautiful backyard.

“I just invite anybody to come and give it a crack because it’s such a special place here. We open up our marae for you fullas. We open up our people, we have a hākari (feast) at the end and people just sit there in the ambience of what they achieve and it’s an amazing event.”