|28 June 2021
Billy Stairmand and Ella Williams are set to become New Zealand’s first ever Olympic surfers, after officially being named to the New Zealand Team this morning.
The duo secured their Olympic spots with performances at the 2019 International Surfing Association World Games. With last year’s world’s cancelled, it meant those marks retained their importance.
The pair hail from two of the most popular surf regions in the country. Williams lives in Whangamata while Stairmand is based in Raglan.
‘’This is a dream come true for me,’’ says Stairmand. ‘’Ever since surfing was named as a sport in the Olympics I put it at the top of my goals list.’’
The 31-year-old, who is an 8x New Zealand surfing champion, described becoming the first male New Zealand Olympic surfer as “huge”.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has always backed me and believed in me. Anything is possible if you work hard.”
It’s been a busy period for Stairmand, who, on the weekend, received confirmation that he’s qualified for the World Surf League Challenger Series alongside some of the best surfers in the world.
Williams, who works in her parents’ surf shop at Whangamata, describes her selection for Tokyo as “so special”.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family so I’m super grateful to have them by my side every step of the way,” says Williams.
Her parents taught her to surf when she was four. When she was eight, she wrote of her ambition to be world champion on a surfing poster, which was on a wall beside her bed providing a constant ambition.
She remains the only New Zealand surfer to win the women’s world junior championship title – and that after receiving a wildcard into the event.
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith congratulated the pair.
“It’s fantastic to have surfing in the Games and to have a male and female New Zealander representing us in Tokyo,” says Smith.
“These athletes will be helping to provide surfing with massive global exposure and will help the Olympic Games reach a new audience. We wish you all the best for competition and will be cheering you on.”
Surfing will be making it’s Olympic debut when competition begins at Tsurigasaki Beach, situated around an hour’s drive from Tokyo.
There will be 20 competitors in each class in Tokyo. Wave conditions permitting, competition is due to run from July 25-28.
It is one of six sports making their debut at the Olympics, along with softball, baseball, sport climbing, skateboarding and karate.
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