Northland's newest beach volleyball talents will be putting their skills to the test on home turf this weekend as part of the G.J. Gardner Homes New Zealand Beach Tour.
Fifteen-year-old Whangārei Girls' High School students Demi Crabb and Eve Jennings will be teaming up for their first competition in Northland this weekend at Ruakākā beach for the third leg of the national beach volleyball tour.
The tour, which had already held competitions in Mount Maunganui, Gisborne and Nelson, will feature over 40 domestic and international teams which will compete from 9am tomorrow and Sunday before a social tournament on Monday.
Crabb and Jennings, who had played netball and indoor volleyball together for four years, only took up the sport late last year after their skills for volleyball were noticed by family friend and former New Zealand beach volleyball player, Suzy McAsey.
The pair will compete alongside a select few Northland players in the under-17 'Junior Joust' division, comprised of six teams.
Crabb, a great niece of Northland rugby legend Sid Going, said she was surprised with her first taste of beach volleyball.
"I thought [indoor and beach] would be the same but they are completely different," she said.
"The thing about indoor, it's a big team sport so it's about teamwork and it's just a completely different environment.
"Beach volleyball is quite mentally draining because it's just two people on a court."
After playing their first provincial beach volleyball tournaments towards the end of last year, Crabb said it was eye-opening and motivational to see how experienced other teams were.
Adam Pearse: Reflecting on a year in Northland sport
"We are probably one of two [Northland] teams, there's just not enough exposure up here and it was just obvious that [other teams] had played more.
"It's motivated me to train more, to be as good as them, but it's just hard because we don't have enough exposure on the sport [in Northland]."
Crabb said she was looking forward to playing in what was a rare Northland-based tournament and she hoped to go deep in the junior competition.
McAsey, who coached the pair at Tikipunga High School's beach volleyball court, said Crabb and Jennings were perfect exponents to grow beach volleyball in Northland.
"Demi's speed and athleticism in the back court and Eve's height and blocking ability at the net are going to see them become a formidable combination in the years ahead as they grow within the game."
Alongside Crabb and Jennings, Whangārei combination Maya Juarez and Tarquala Whittaker-Stone will also contest the junior division.
In the open women's section, Whangārei local Terina Hauraki will play with fellow NZ under-19 beach volleyball squad member, Rose Akkerman, and will be hoping to impress national selectors ahead of world junior squad selections.
10.20am: Women's semifinals
11.10am: Men's semifinal 1
12pm: Men's semifinal 2
1pm: Junior boys' final
2pm: Junior girls' final
3pm: Women's final
4pm: Men's final
Monday's social competition:
Four-a-side social tournament
Up to six players per team of any age and gender
9am registration in front of Ruakākā Surf Life Saving Club
$10/person (cash or card)
Spot prizes including for best team costume