Birdman entrants' airborne ecstasy only fleeting

20:38, Jan 21 2013
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John Irving ponders his choice of dive at Birdman Wellington yesterday.
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The Co-Operative Bank team take on the challenge.
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Members of Team Rainbow Butt brace themselves for the Birdman plunge.
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Forest and Bird's Jo Williams launches a Sopworth Camel plane into the drink.
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The crowds settle in for the Birdman spectacle at Taranaki Wharf yesterday.

They walked the plank in an attempt to prove kiwis could fly.

More than 60 people, including about 10 children, dressed in colourful and creative costumes and plunged into the capital's harbour off Taranaki Wharf at the annual Birdman Wellington competition yesterday.

More than 3000 people lined the Wellington waterfront as birds, angels and pirates took the leap.

Among them were pirates Mo Altahan and Scotty Hunter, who had created a buoyant Black Pearl pirate ship, but after deciding it was too dark, changed it to the Party Pearl complete with colourful balloons.

Mr Altahan, a skydiving instructor of Upper Hutt, and Mr Hunter, a payroll officer of Wainuiomata, were confident their ship would help them set sail to Matiu/Somes Island.

But when their turn came, they discovered that they instead plunged straight down, much to the delight of spectators.

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Mr Altahan is originally from Iraq while Mr Hunter hails from Wales.

"We're going to show Kiwis how to do it. They say kiwis don't fly, well, we're Kiwis from a different world so we do fly," Mr Altahan said. Their pirate ship was named the supreme winner.

For Aucklander John Irving, plunging into the harbour put another tick against his bucket list. The list included bungy jumping, skydiving and whitewater rafting.

Though he was frightened at the prospect of leaping off the wharf, it was another way in which he tried to curb his fear. "This is something I have been wanting to do for the last 15 years." His homemade purple costume was designed to be aerodynamic in an attempt to fly, he said.

The Birdman event raised money for Forest & Bird. The final figure will be known in two days.

Contact Sophie Speer
Culture and Capital Day reporter
Email: sophie.speer@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @sophie_speer

The Dominion Post