Hundreds of athletes from throughout New Zealand will descend on Mount Maunganui main beach for one of the biggest sporting events on the Surf Life Saving New Zealand calendar this weekend.
This year, 850 people will compete in the annual Eastern Region Championships on January 26-28.
The largest team to compete at the 2018 championships is Red Beach Surf Life Saving Club with 88 athletes, followed closely by the local team from Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service with 75 athletes.
Joining them, and fresh off their dominant performances at the Central Regional Championships, are New Plymouth teams Fitzroy and East End Surf Life Saving clubs with 27 and 25 athletes respectively.
A total of 34 teams from around the country, including Dunedin's St Clair Surf Life Saving Club, are travelling to the annual carnival which has more than 15 different events.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand Eastern Region sport manager Mark Inglis said the event was shaping up to be one of the most competitive this season due to the large number of athletes and skill.
"To have over 800 athletes from around New Zealand, including a lot of our New Zealand competitors who compete overseas, competing here in Tauranga is simply fantastic," Inglis said.
"Year on year, this event is one of the largest on the calendar and we are proud to be continuing that tradition, especially with the added bonus of the New Zealand Representative Challenge."
The country's top surf life saving athletes return to the Mount beach for the 2018 New Zealand Representative Challenge on Monday which Inglis said added "a whole new level of excitement" to the championship event.
"The Rep Challenge brings out some of New Zealand's best athletes and having them compete alongside the athletes at the ERCs in preparation for the event on Monday, means it will create a lot of close racing during the weekend," Inglis said.
Athletes from the New Zealand open, development and youth teams will be fighting for both Eastern Region Championship titles and top honours at the New Zealand Representative Challenge.
Eastern Region Championships – Clubs and number of athletes
Red Beach SLSC, 88
Mt Maunganui Lifeguard Service, 75
Piha SLSC, 73
Mairangi Bay SLSC, 62
Orewa SLSC, 61
Omanu SLSC, 41
Waikanae SLSC, 37
Papamoa SLSC, 36
Ocean Beach Kiwi SLSC, 34
Lyall Bay SLSC, 31
Fitzroy SLSC, 27
Waihi Beach Lifeguard Services Inc, 26
East End SLSC, 25
Waimarama SLSC, 22
Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service Inc, 21
Westshore SLSC, 21
Midway SLSC, 16
Whangamata SLSC, 16
St Clair SLSC, 13
Bethells Beach SLSP, 9
New Plymouth Old Boys SLSC, 9
South Brighton SLSC, 9
Whakatane SLSC, 9
Waimairi SLSC, 6
Wainui SLSC, 6
Opotiki SLSC, 5
Palmerston North SLSC, 5
Sumner SLSC, 4
Tairua Surf Life Saving Club, 4
Taylors Mistake SLSC, 2
Whiritoa Lifeguard Service, 2
Maranui SLSC, 1
Omaha Beach SLSC, 1
Waikuku Beach SLSC, 1