The best lifeguards for miles around will line up this weekend to find out which athletes and which clubs become Champion of the Bays.
This weekend, 241 surf lifesavers from 14 clubs will race on the beach and in the water at the annual competition between Gisborne and Bay of Plenty surf lifesaving clubs.
This year the event is hosted by Whakatane Surf Life Saving Club, at Ohope Beach, and falls just five weeks before the BP Surf Rescue New Zealand Championships, on February 16 and 17.
So, many athletes will be using it as a pre-nationals event, and competition should be strong, says Surf Life Saving NZ interim sport manager Scott Bicknell.
“There’s a significant amount of prestige and pride for the over-all club winner champion. It’s a local event, with local athletes, and the Bay of Plenty is a very strong area – this tends to be an all-the best for the area.
“The aim is to try to get as much racing as possible before the nationals, so they race in as many events as possible, and it’s quite hard, fast racing.”
The event is also a selection event for teams from Coromandel and Bay of Plenty for the New Zealand Representative Challenge, taking place later in January, where athletes can go head-to-head against competitors from other regions for top honours.
Team members from the Junior Black Fins will also be part of the action. The team recently returned from a history-making winning campaign at the Junior Lifesaving World Championships in Adelaide.
The weekend’s events include beach springs, flags races, board rescues, tube rescues, and canoe and IRB (Inflatable Rescue Boat) events.
Bicknell says some hot tickets to watch out for will be both Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service and Omanu Surf Life Saving Club, who are traditionally strong in the quintessential “key surf lifesaving events”, like the iron-person races, ski board, and the swims.
Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club (Gisborne), is another club to watch as this year they will have an unusually large IRB contingent.
The Bay of Plenty clubs will be competing for the BOP Top Club Trophy.
Competition starts at 8.30am on Saturday, January 12, at Ohope Beach, and 9am on Sunday, January 13.