With the three event locations locked down, Mount Maunganui gets the show underway before the series heads to Whangamata (23-24 February) and finishes at Piha 9-10 March).
Newly crowned National Champion in the Under 16 Boys Division, Korbin Hutchings (formerly of Gisborne) will return from Australia, where he currently resides, to compete at the event.
"I like coming back and seeing everyone and seeing how everyone is surfing, it is always fun"
said Hutchings of his return. After winning his title on Saturday, the energetic natural foot surfer returned to Australia to take in a few days of school and get his year off to a good start. "I didn't want to stay in New Zealand and miss the start of school then come back and not have my classes sorted and be a complete shambles" said Hutchings.
Hutchings won the title, his first, at Piha in big surf, and he couldn't be happier with the crown. The event next weekend could also see sizeable surf as a low pressure system bears down on the East Coast of New Zealand during the middle of next week.
With the event being so early in the year, all of the groms reshuffle and find their position in the pecking order after a number of surfers move up a division. Hutchings will face off against local favourite Kehu Butler who has been impressive, himself picking up a title at the National Champs in the Under 14 Boys Division. The two surfers will be joined by the likes of an in form Harrison Whiteside (Chch), Taylor Hutchison (Rag) who placed in the final at the Nationals along with Manu Scott - Arrieta (Sandy Bay), Isaac Kettle (Tara) and Tane Bowden (WGM).
Bowden still qualifies for the youngest age group at the event, the Under 12 Boys Division. Despite towering above most of his opponents, Bowden is happy to have another year left in the division but he hopes to do well in the older age groups as well if he gets that chance.
"My goal is to win the Under 14s and the Under 12s this year" said Bowden who rates the surf at the Mount because "It is similar to Whangamata where I live, but not as good" he cheekily quips.
The Under 16 Girls Division is shaping up to be a testing encounter with newly crowned national champion Dayna Story (Gis) focussed on the series after a stellar performance at the New Zealand Championships.
"I am stoked with how things went at the Nationals and I am looking forward to the 'Billabongs' this year" said Story. The Nationals win was my biggest goal and I did heaps of work toward that and it paid off so I aim to continue along the same path next weekend."
Story along with New Zealand Junior Surfing Squad representatives, Jasmine Smith (Gis), Claudia Fraser (Piha) and Kea Smith (Mnt) will have national selection deep in the back of their minds heading into the first Billabong Grom Series event. The four surfers are vying for only two places on the New Zealand team when it is announced on the 26th March. A second win on the trot for Story would help her cause immensely while a win from any of the other girls would also see their stocks rise.
"It is definitely in the back of my mind, it has been the biggest goal of mine for years. Competition is pretty intense at the moment though and we are all having a good battle with each other" said Story.
The 2013 Billabong Grom Series marks the ninth year of existence. A large number of budding surfers have progressed through the series from the age of ten through to sixteen before the exit into older age brackets.
This year all the entrants will be aided by elite surfing coach Matt Scorringe who will be at the event to give everyone guidance each morning before the event starts as well as being set up throughout the day to give the groms tips on how they can improve technically and competitively.
However, many groms next weekend will be competing at their first national surfing event and simply hitting the waves to gain some experience. For these young boys and girls the weekend is also about having fun, learning new surfing skills and meeting other young surfers from around the country. The series is spiced up here too with land based activities and spot prizes added to the mix with wild prizes from Skinny and others to keep the groms foaming to do their best.
For all entrants, the fun will be loaded into the two days with each competitor walking away with a goody bag filled with sponsors gear and good summer memories.
Set out below are the winners of the six divisions over the past five years.
Under 16 Boys
2008 - Alex Dive (Mnt)
2009 - Ben Poulter (Rag)
2010 - Adam Grimson (Gis)
2011 - Dune Kennings (WGM)
2012 - Elliot Paerata - Reid (Piha)
Under 14 Boys
2008 - Tane Wallis (Piha)
2009 - Paul Moretti (Mimiwhangata)
2010 - Dune Kennings (WGM)
2011 - Quin Matenga (Mnt)
2012 - Kehu Butler (Mnt)
Under 12 Boys
2008 - Elliot Paerata Reid (Piha)
2009 - Korbin Hutchings (Gis)
2010 - Manu Scott - Arrieta (Sandy Bay)
2011 - Kehu Butler (Mnt)
2012 - Kehu Butler (Mnt)
Under 16 Girls
2008 - Alexis Poulter (Rag)
2009 - Grace Spiers (WGM)
2010 - Ella Williams (WGM)
2011 - Ella Williams (WGM)
2012 Jasmine Smith (Gis)
Under 14 Girls
2008 - Ella Williams (WGM)
2009 - Ella Williams (WGM)
2010 - Gabriela Sansom (Auck)
2011 - Dayna Story (Gis)
2012 - Milly Crewe (Muri)
Under 12 Girls
2008 - Gabriela Sansom (WGM)
2009 - Dayna Story (Gis)
2010 - Milly Crewe (Mur)
2011 - Gabrielle Paul (Piha)
2012 Elin Tawharu (Mnt)
Please see below for event dates:
Billabong Grom Series pres by Oceanbridge Event 1 - 2nd - 3rd February, Mount Maunganui
Billabong Grom Series pres by Oceanbridge Event 2 - 23rd - 24th February, Whangamata
Billabong Grom Series pres by Oceanbridge Event 3 - 9th - 10th March, Piha Beach, Auckland
Entry into the events can be completed at Surfing New Zealand under events.
For further information on the 2013 Billabong Grom Series presented by Oceanbridge please contact Surfing New Zealand's Ben Kennings on 021 2278732 or email email@example.com. Alternatively contact Billabong Event Manager Keone Campbell on 0274921138 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.