A perfect swell forecast has helped attract the country's best surfers to Raglan for the next two days.
New Zealand's richest surfing event, the Rip Curl Pro Raglan, will see the likes of national champions Billy Stairmand and Ella Williams in action, while the recently-retired Maz Quinn will also return to competition.
Big two metre-plus waves are forecasted for Friday and clean 1.5m conditions for the final day on Saturday.
Home-town hero Billy Stairmand is among the favourites the men's title.
Quinn (Gisborne) and Williams (Whangamata) will defend their 2016 titles, with both aiming for a historic third victory, with no surfer in the 13-year history of the event having won more than two consecutive events. Home-town favourite Stairmand has won three titles in the Open Men's division (2008, '09 and '11) while fellow local Jessica Santorik has won the event on four occasions ('07, '09, '10 and '12).
Williams and New Zealand team-mates Taylor Hutchison (Raglan) and Zen Wallis (Piha) will use the event as a warm-up for the World Surfing Games in France at the end of the month.
Williams knows the importance of getting in some competitive practice prior to representing New Zealand on the world stage and has targeted the event this weekend as a vital stepping stone. She goes in to the 2017 edition of the ISA World Surfing Games looking for a podium finish after falling just short in 2016.
She will face off against the likes of 2015 national champion Gabriella Sansom (Albany), up-and-coming 15-year-old Saffi Vette (Gisborne) and Santorik.
Stairmand will be looking to break Quinn's recent stranglehold on the event.
He honed his skills at Manu Bay and is widely regarded as the best surfer at the left-hand point break. With a less strenuous international campaign in 2017, Stairmand will aim for a win here in an event with more than $10,000 in prizemoney available to help fund his attendance at more worldwide events later in the year.
Piha's Elliot Paerata-Reid has been competing overseas this year but has returned for the event and is an obvious title contender. Last year, Paerata-Reid came painfully close to winning the event, tying with Quinn but losing on a countback due to Quinn's single highest-scoring wave being superior.
There are a host of young New Zealand-based surfers including number one seed Harrison Whiteside (Christcurch), Hutchison and Wallis who will also be in contention.