New Zealand is spoilt for quality surf. In the last story in our surfing New Zealand series, Christopher Reive explores why it's time a major event returns to our shores.
Once a regular feature of the women's Championship Tour, it's been almost four years since a World Surf League contest has graced Kiwi shores.
From 2010 to 2013, the top echelon of the world's female surfers descended upon the wave-rich coast of Taranaki. For four years the region hosted a stop on the Championship tour, before hosting a major event on the women's qualifying series in 2014 and 2015.
However, with the cost of hosting the events and a lack of sponsors, the event was no more. It was the most recent of a slew of WSL event hosted in New Zealand, which included an event at Piha in 1976 - the first ever year a professional tour was held.
Next year, New Zealand will be represented on both the men's and women's Championship Tours, with Ricardo Christe and Paige Hareb flying the Kiwi flag. It will be the first time the country has had an athlete on each tour at the same time, and feels like the opportunity to get the wheels going on the WSL returning to Aotearoa.
Last April, WSL told the Herald New Zealand was a key market, and one they were keen to return to.
"The country is full of great waves, we know though our broadcast analytics that we have a strong fan base in New Zealand and finally there are talented surfers all over the country that we would love to provide competitive opportunities to," a WSL spokesperson said.
"We are in talks with partners in New Zealand at this time, but in reality we have been talking to people in New Zealand ever since our last event there a few years ago ... Hopefully we will be able to return to New Zealand sooner, rather than later."
Should the League find partners to fund another event on Kiwi shores, be it on the qualifying series or Championship Tour, the options of hosting venue are plentiful.
Piha, Taranaki and Raglan have all played host to the League in the past - Piha in 1976, Raglan from 1995 to 1997, and in Taranaki from 2010 to 2015.
Any three of those venues would immediately be thrown back into the conversation should the WSL return to New Zealand, but they wouldn't be the only ones.
Mt Maunganui and the Coromandel Peninsula could be in the mix to host an event, particularly if it's on the qualifying series.
The series events often take place in small and testing conditions, so while the main sites at Mt Maunganui and on the Coromandel may not always be the most reliable for wave size, there's usually enough of a bump to ride.
Kiwi pro Ella Williams says the breaks in New Zealand stack up well against the majority of those she's visited around the world.
"New Zealand, as a country in general, we are so lucky," the Whangamata native says.
"A lot of the places around the world, yeah they're good, but they're not great. I would honestly say we as New Zealand are so lucky with the beaches we've got, the people we're surrounded by (and) the country in itself is super clean and tidy.
"We've got Whangamata, the Mount, Raglan, and so many other surf breaks and beautiful beaches that are also untouched."
Hareb, who will enter the eighth Championship tour campaign of her career, says it would be nice to see the WSL return to New Zealand, but anyone hoping to bring it back needed to be realistic about the costs involved.
When Surfing Taranaki brought the tour to the region, the entire festival cost approximately $400,000 each year to run, but also included more than $100,000 worth of donated goods and services.
The festival, which included the WSL event, a have a go day, funding the festival village, highlight production and more, averaged 65 sponsors each of the five years it ran, with 95 per cent of them being from Taranaki.
"It's a lot of money and all the prize money and paying everyone is in American dollars, so even just the exchange rate makes it that much more expensive," Hareb says.
"Now with Ric there as well, hopefully it encourages some brand or company to help get it back here."