Top athletes from Bay of Plenty and Gisborne surf life saving clubs are set to do battle in Whakatāne.

This weekend, 241 surf life savers from 14 clubs will race on the beach and in the water at the annual competition between Gisborne and Bay of Plenty clubs.

This year's event is hosted by the Whakatāne Surf Life Saving Club, at Ōhope Beach, and falls just five weeks before the BP Surf Rescue New Zealand Championships, on February 16-17.

Many athletes will be using this weekend as pre-nationals preparation and competition should be strong, Surf Life Saving NZ interim sport manager Scott Bicknell said.

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"There's a significant amount of prestige and pride for the overall club winner champion. It's a local event, with local athletes, and the Bay of Plenty is a very strong 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.

Junior Black Fin team members will also be involved. The team recently returned from a history-making winning campaign at the Junior Lifesaving World Championships in Adelaide.

This weekend's competition includes beach springs, flags races, board rescues, tube rescues, and canoe and IRB (Inflatable Rescue Boat) events.

Bicknell said clubs to watch out for would be Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service and Omanu Surf Life Saving Club, who are traditionally strong in the quintessential "key surf lifesaving events", such as the iron-person races, ski board, and swims. However, Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club (Gisborne) was another club to watch as this year they had an unusually large IRB contingent.

Points earned by Bay of Plenty clubs will decide the Bay of Plenty Top Club Trophy.

Bicknell said life saving sport helped build "strong, enthusiastic and experienced lifeguards", who were skilled at their craft and at reading conditions.

"That makes for strong lifeguards in patrols, and helps makes our beaches safer."

Competition starts at 8.30am tomorrow and 9am on Sunday.