Mount Maunganui surfer Kehu Butler is returning to New Zealand waters to compete this weekend.
Butler and Daniel Farr (Tara), two of the country's top young surfers, will hit the water at the Rip Curl GromSearch being held at Fitzroy Beach, New Plymouth.
The two surfers have been traversing Australia for two months this summer competing on the World Surf League Australasian Pro Junior Series. A gap in their busy schedule means they are able to return to New Zealand for the first time this year.
Butler claimed the Rip Curl GromSearch title in 2015 and in doing so, won himself a trip to Brazil to compete in the international final, which was hosted by 2014 World Champion Gabriel Medina.
The coveted spot in the international final is up for grabs again in the under-17 boys' and girls' divisions this year and Kehu Butler is eligible for the spot that goes to the two highest-placed surfers under the age of 16.
Butler is New Zealand's highest-ranked surfer on the Pro Junior Series, currently sitting ninth with three events remaining.
Farr is a New Plymouth surfer who won the New Zealand Grom Series in 2015. After events throughout Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, he will relish the chance to return home and compete this weekend.
The two returning surfers will further strengthen an already bulging lineup of surfers and will certainly give current ratings leader Jonas Tawharu (Mnt) a good challenge, the young surfer currently being undefeated on the New Zealand Grom Series this year.
Other under-17 boys' division surfers to look out for include Jared Gebert (Ohope), Dylan Preston (WGM), Caleb Cutmore (Ham) and Waitara surfer Reef Matthews, who round out the top five positions on the rankings.
The under-17 girls' division will be another hotly contested division. Raiha Ensor (Mnt) has led for the entire summer but she will again face a good challenge from fellow Mountie Elin Tawharu, Kai Woolf (Gis) and New Plymouth local Zhana Hutchison, who will no doubt use a hometown event to find some late-season form.
Ensor was the New Zealand representative in Brazil for last year's final but this year she will be too old to attend the event, leaving the race to her counterparts under the age of 16.
Fresh off a win in the under-14 boys' division at Piha last weekend, Whakatane surfer Jack Lee will be eager to continue his run of good form that has seen him make two finals this summer and sit in the top five despite missing the national championships in Dunedin.
Likewise Georgia Wederell (Mnt) took a win at Piha last weekend and she will attempt to surf to back-to-back victories and strengthen her ratings lead against her opponents.
The Rip Curl GromSearch includes under-12 boys' and girls' divisions which introduce new talent to the sport as well as giving those keen youngsters who generally compete in the under-14 boys' division a chance to go head-to-head against surfers their own age.
Raglan will be represented by a trio of surfers includingNo1 seed Kora Cooper as well as Jayden Willoughby and Navryn Malone, all three surfers having been regular competitors in the under-14 division this summer.
In the under-12 girls' division, the field of seven surfers includes five newcomers to the Rip Curl GromSearch.