I went as a reporter and left a gumboot throwing champ.

The South Island Gumboot Throwing Championships sounded intriguing. Is there a more quintessentially Kiwi contest?

The finalists were taken from a "Have a go" event on Lincoln University's rugby fields.

The students - slim, athletic, occasionally mulleted, collars upturned, in gummies or jandals - seemed to struggle.

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It looked like it all came down to technique.

And the tactics employed were endless: overarm, underarm, running javelin, discus, spinning discus, backwards toss.

Also, how to hold the awkward, flimsy rubber farm shoe? Heel or toe pointing forwards? The pinch or scrunch?

I've always liked throwing things: cricket balls (Southbrook Primary School record holder), parties, wobblies. And in the true spirit of New Zealand "have a go" attitude, I was desperate to give it a shot.

"I'm a reporter ... but any chance I could have a go?"

"Of course!"

I signed up, waited my turn, and studied technique.

Ready ... Photo / Geoff Sloan, Christchurch Star
Ready ... Photo / Geoff Sloan, Christchurch Star

Getting it to fly end-over-end, with minimal drag, seemed critical.

There was some dew on the ground, quickly burning off in the hot late summer sun.

I decided to go barefoot. Off came the shiny dress shoes and stripy business socks.
Trousers rolled up. I left the tie on.

When my turn came, I asked one of the organisers if the discus technique was best?
"You bet, mate."

"Spin?"

"Whatever you reckon."

I lined up, gave a couple of practice half-spins, and flew into a 360-degree twirl and released. Surprisingly it went pretty straight. My toes were centimetres behind the painted red line. A fair throw.

"Nice!" someone encouraged.

Buoyed, I lined up another hurl. This time as I spun and hiffed, I let out a Valerie Adams-type roar, which scared both the birds and passing freshers.

It went even further. Much further than anyone else to have yet tried.

Now feeling slightly embarrassed - at both my unplanned roar, and my unexpected success - I decided to change technique for my last of three throws.

Concentrating on swing and technique ... Photo / Geoff Sloan, Christchurch Star
Concentrating on swing and technique ... Photo / Geoff Sloan, Christchurch Star

I went javelin overarm and flung it forward. It went ever further.

The measuring tape came out: 31.87m.

Organiser Elizabeth Mortland, president and founder of the New Zealand Boot Throwing Association, was impressed.

"That will be tough to be beat today. Are you available for the New Zealand champs next month?" she asked.

"Um sure," I said, mumbling that surely many others will beat that by the end of the day.

But sure enough, come the South Island Gumboot Throwing Championships final, I had qualified second - pipped at the top of the leaderboard by Koen Jantzen who threw 13cm further.

The main attraction of the day was an attempt at a world record for the most people throwing a gumboot at one time, the brainchild of Lincoln University Students Association.

Followthrough adds that champion touch. Photo / Geoff Sloan, Christchurch Star
Followthrough adds that champion touch. Photo / Geoff Sloan, Christchurch Star

When asked where the inspiration for the event came, vice president Tessa Williams replied: "Massey nicked off us a few years ago."

But the attempt was a fizzle, falling around 350 short of Massey's record.

Never mind, serious business needed tending to.

A head-wind had picked up for the finals. The throws suffered.

I cracked under the intense pressure. The harder I threw, the more my technique flailed.

Still, I finished third, behind Koen and AgriCommerce student James Kellow, who threw 30.44m in the final.

Charlotte Symes was the top woman with a best of 20m.

James talked me through his victory.

"I was born in Taihape," he said.

That explained everything. Taihape: gumboot capital of the world and boot tossing powerhouse. It was genetic.

The three of us - James, Koen, and I - were awarded cash prizes and ceremoniously named to represent the South Island at the nationals in Palmerston North of March 11.

The prospect is daunting. Olympic legends Valerie Adams and Mahe Drysdale will be there. So will New Zealand decathlete and champion boot thrower (from Taihape, obviously) Brent Newdick.

The New Zealand men's record is 49.35m.

I need to get training (and buy some gumboots). It's all about technique.