Rain, chilly temperatures and the lowest tide in many years failed to dampen the creativity or enthusiasm of a dozen teams in this year's Birdman jump.

The Blast Taniwha from Kerikeri takes the plunge from the end of Russell wharf. Photo / Peter de Graaf
The Blast Taniwha from Kerikeri takes the plunge from the end of Russell wharf. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The highlight of Russell's mid-winter Birdman Festival, teams contesting the jump attempt to leap from the end of Russell wharf in the most entertaining or original way possible.

Gill "Digger Dagg" West demonstrates the importance of an elegant technique when tackling the haybale obstacle in the Fred Dagg dash.

With perverse timing a squall swept in just before the jump started at 2pm on Saturday and eased just after the last contestants had braved the bitterly cold water. The drop from the end of the wharf was the highest in many years thanks to an unusually low tide.

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This year's supreme winner was Russell skipper Tim Grant, who has entered every Birdman but one since the event started in 2007 to lure visitors to Russell in the quiet winter months.

Grant's costume, dubbed Plastic Wrapper, was made by Russell designer Sandra Thompson from discarded fishing line and netting to resemble a gannet tangled in trash.

His jump was accompanied by a rap about the threat to marine wildlife posed by plastic waste. Grant donated his $500 winnings to Russell Recyclers.

Organisers Anika Whapshott and Steph Godsiff of Blah Blah Marketing said Saturday's weather was disappointing but an estimated 3500 people had turned out regardless.

"Luvvi" from Edinburgh takes some Dutch courage before the Russell Birdman drag race.

A notable feature of this year's festival was the large number of spectators and participants who had travelled long distances, from Auckland and Whangārei in particular but as far away as Southland.

''Amazing'' stilt walkers from Auckland circus company Highly Flammable had contributed to the carnival-like atmosphere, Whapshott said.

Oliver "Olivia" Eadie and Paul "Shazza" McBride tackle the haybale obstacle in the Birdman drag race.

This year's festival was compressed into two days instead of the usual three and started earlier, on Friday morning.

Supreme Birdman: Tim Grant/Russell Recyclers, Plastic Wrapper, Russell; most innovative design: Pania Sigley and Maryanne Hooson, Yellow Submarine, Russell; crowd favourite: Daya and Jahnu Rosemeyer, Dave and Jane Go Bonkers, Golden Bay; cleverest craft: Blast Taniwha, Kerikeri; best stage show: Project Island Song, Russell/Auckland. Drag race winner: Paul ''Shazza'' McBride, Auckland; Fred Dagg dash: Jules ''Bazza'' Mills, Auckland.