Northland's best surfers are getting prepared to make the rest of the country sit up and notice their talent as the 2006 Hyundai National Surfing Championships in the Far North nears.
The competition will draw up to 400 surfers from around the country to the Northern beaches from January 7, in over 20 separate divisions.
Northland surfers have proved over the years that they have the ability to become finalists and even take home national champion status.
Billy Hale, from Pukenui, is presently the only Northland surfer who will be defending a title, which he won in the Veterans (40+) division at Opunake last year, but there are plenty of other surfers that have the skills and contest savvy to go all the way in their respective divisions.
Leading the charge will be Matapouri's Paco Divers, who is currently a New Zealand junior representative, having recently returned from the World Junior Championships held at Huntington Beach, in California, as well as international competitions in France and Australia.
Divers has a very impressive contest record and is peaking at the right time to be a serious contender for his first national title in either the Cadet (U16) or Junior (U18) divisions.
Along with Divers will be his surfing buddy, Oliver Bone, also from Matapouri, will be a contender.
Bone recently won the Billabong Gromfest in Dunedin, his best result to date this season.
Also from the Tatapouri Coast are the mother and daughter duo of Pauline Pullman and Wini Paul who are consistent performers in every women's event around the country.
Pauline already has 10 national titles to her credit and should prove too strong in the newly created Senior (30+) division and Wini could make it a family double by taking out the Junior (U18) section.
Pauline also has a definite chance in the Womens Longboard division.
The Open Mens division is the most competitive and prestigious event in the championship and Northland surfers will be hard pressed to make the finals, but after witnessing the action at the recent Fullers Interclub Challenge, held at the Bluff (one of the venues for the nationals) then some serious upsets could be caused by Sandy Bay rippers Steve Thompson and the Dowsett brothers, Chad and Cheyne.
If these surfers start to get a roll on they are definite top 10 material.
Oli Adams, former Ahiparian and National Junior Champion, will be returning from the professional European tour to also challenge for the Open title.
Oli is now an unknown quantity, having been out of the country for two years, but he is definitely a threat to the more established names.
Todd Hale, Billy's son, has a great opportunity to shine in the Grommets (U14) division as he will be surfing all his home breaks, and he has gained a lot of contest experience over the past 12 months.
In the Senior (28+) division Stew Tweedy from Kerikeri could show his contest pedigree, especially if the waves are pumping at Tauroa Point.
The talented and well respected goofy-footer has all the moves and when it comes to big wave riding.
In the more senior divisions Northland has a wider pool of talented and experienced contest surfers.
Viv Treacy, from Ocean Beach, and Mark Shanks, Ahipara, are former finalists at a national level and will be surfing against each other once more in the very competitive Legends (50+) division.
The longboarding divisions are also hotly contested and a local favourite will be longboard guru Roger Hall from Ruakaka. Roger has been at the forefront of the longboard revival and with intimate knowledge of the Far North breaks should have a good chance in the Open Longboard division.
All Northland entrants have the added incentive of being in the draw for a major spot prize, an Island Holidays Fiji Surf Camp for seven days, courtesy of the major Northland surf shops and surf schools. So even if a national title slips from their grasp a week surfing the idyllic waves of Fiji will be a major compensation.