Taranaki's Oakura Beach will host the first major Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) competition for the 2017 surf lifesaving season this weekend.
The BP Surf Rescue North Island Championships is the first round of the BP Surf Rescue Series which will be followed by the South Island Championships in March and the New Zealand Championships in April.
Last year's North Island Championships at Waipu Cove saw Port Waikato club Sunset Beach take out the title, well clear of Taranaki's East End with Papamoa close on their heels for third.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand Sport Manager Mike Lord says Sunset will be looking to retain their title this weekend.
"But look out for some solid performances from East End and Papamoa as they will be looking to spoil Sunset's party and take the win," he says.
The annual event has drawn in 144 entries (63 crews) from 12 different clubs including locals East End, Fitzroy, New Plymouth Old Boys and Opunake along with Eastern Region Clubs Papamoa and Waikanae, Central Region Clubs Waimarama and Westshore, Northern Region Clubs Sunset Beach and United North Piha and Southern Region clubs North Beach (Christchurch) and St Clair.
Five different events will be contested including the Assembly Rescue, Mass Rescue, Tube Rescue, Single Rescue and Teams Race across the Under 21, Senior, Women's and Premier divisions.
Eleven crews will take on the Premier Men's division along with eleven crews in the Women's division plus seven Senior Men's crews and 13 Under 21 Men's.
Event manager Todd Velvin says with a bright weather forecast and good surf conditions, it's sure to be an exciting day of racing at Oakura Beach.
"IRB crews from across the country are set to challenge each other with some old rivals up for the challenge and some new teams trying to stake their claim, he says.
"Crews to watch out for are the pairings of Scott Nelson and Scott Busing from East End with Nelson coming off a big season last year, claiming a number of top trophies for his cabinet. The experienced Edwards brothers (Sunset Beach) will also try and stake their claim for the top Premier crew."
Velvin says in the Women's division, we'll see some new crew combinations as the Shrimpton sisters from Sunset Beach split up to form two new crews.
"Who will come out as the top women's crew will be the question in everyone's mind," he says.
In the Under 21 division, the two crews wanting to stamp their mark will be locals Michael Watts and Lachie Stevens from New Plymouth Old Boys and Jerome McSweeney-Novak and Liam Cole from East End.
"Which local crew will have the upper hand or will it be another crew to upset the home town party?" he says.
Racing begins at Oakura from 8am on Saturday.
Visit for live results http://liveresults.co.nz/sls
Entries by club:
East End SLSC- 17
Fitzroy SLSC- 7
New Plymouth Old Boys SLSC- 11
North Beach SLSC- 5
Opunake SLSC- 16
Papamoa SLSC- 20
St Clair SLSC- 5
Sunset Beach LS- 27
United North Piha Lifeguard Service - 10
Waikanae SLSC- 5
Waimarama SLSC- 16
Westshore SLSC- 5
Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Manager, SLSNZ
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823