Story by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Journalism
A big weekend is looming for Bay of Plenty surf lifesaving clubs, with Labour Weekend signaling the start of the voluntary patrol season.
And while the nine local clubs from Waihi Beach to Opotiki will dust off their patrol flags and prime their IRB motors, surf athletes from all over the North Island will descend on Mount Maunganui's Main Beach for Saturday's second round of the new Bay of Plenty Spring Series.
Series organiser Scott Bicknell points out that the general public will benefit doubly from the weekend activities.
"The lifeguards patrolling Bay of Plenty beaches are some of the best-trained in the world and it's no coincidence we've got some of the best athletes around here too," Bicknell said. "All our surf sport athletes will be actively patrolling this coming season and by keeping race-fit, it makes them more capable of performing emergency rescues when needed."
Last season, Bay of Plenty lifeguards saved 118 lives and performed more than 7500 preventative actions, which kept the public out of harm on patrolled beaches in the region.
The series got off to a dramatic start at Omanu last month, with big pounding 2m surf testing the endurance of the athletes. The prevailing westerly flow over the country at the moment is likely to mean less swell on Saturday, although the skill factor will need to be much higher to handle the currents and chop on the water.
Beach sprint and beach flags will be added to the program for the second round, after the high swells washed out a potential sprint track at Omanu.
Each round will also feature a Spring Cup Club Relay, testing the depth and strength of each club's athlete development programmes.
Saturday's event will also give several local athletes valuable competition before they race at the Rescue 2012 world championships in Adelaide in early November. Club members, supporters and the public will also get the chance to sign a good luck banner, which will be presented to the New Zealand team in Adelaide before they compete.
Registration for Saturday's second round is at 8.45am, with racing starting at 9.30am. If conditions aren't favourable, the event will be held in Pilot Bay.