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Two Kiwi Surfers Fulfill Olympic Qualification Criteria in El Salvador

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Two Kiwi surfers have met the Paris 2024 Olympic qualifying criteria at the ISA World Surfing Games being held in El Salvador.  Four of six team members remain alive in the event heading into the final three days with the New Zealand Team sitting in twelfth overall.

The ISA World Surfing Games are taking place from the 30 May – 7 June with 297 athletes from a record breaking 63 countries in attendance.

Taranaki surfer Paige Hareb and Raglan’s Billy Stairmand have advanced through to the latter stages of the event and both are guaranteed to finish inside the top 30 athletes – the quality control ranking that is set for Continental qualifying slots that are on offer at the event.

A total of eight provisional continental qualification spots are up for grabs at this event – one male and one female for each continent (excluding the Americas) – Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania.  With Australia likely filling their quota of four surfers via the WSL World Championship Tour, this event becomes the best path to Paris for New Zealand surfers.

On Sunday morning, Paige Hareb secured a come-from-behind heat progression after a slow start to her heat.  She came back into contention in the last ten minutes thanks to back-to-back rides of 6.60 and 5.17 to advance in second place behind Japan’s Shino Matsuda.

“Far out that was the hardest, hottest heat I’ve ever had,” commented Hareb.

“To come back and pretty much have a 10-minute heat in those big, tough conditions feels pretty nice,” she added.

Despite Paige’s intent focus on her performances only, Sunday’s result was enough to see her remain in the main round with two ‘lives’ left in the event and guaranteed top 30 finish.

“I haven’t thought about where I am in the comp, I don’t even know what round I’m up to, I just know I want to improve my surfing each heat because obviously the level of surfing gets better and better as you progress.”

Not only contending with the extreme energy-sapping temperatures and bath like water at 31 degrees, Hareb has also had to deal with injuries including getting hit by her board on day three and tweaking her knee during yesterday’s performance.

Hareb will resume her campaign early on Tuesday morning (NZ time).

Stairmand followed in Hareb’s footsteps early this morning advancing to the last twelve surfers in the main round, beating three-time World Champion Gabriel Medina in the process.  Stairmand was well aware of what was on the line for Olympic qualification scenarios by advancing through today’s heat.

“Yeah, super stoked on my performance this morning. I knew that was a huge progression in all aspects. So, to put my best heat together under a lot of pressure and against a world champion, I’m super proud of that,” said Stairmand.

“There is still so much work to be done. Unfortunately, a couple of the team went down today. But I am so proud of what they have achieved. It’s been epic seeing them motivated and excited to compete for New Zealand,” he added.

Gisborne’s Saffi Vette surfed one heat today finishing in a tie for second but advancing courtesy of the highest single wave score.  Vette has now battled through three repechage rounds and on day six is faced with the daunting task of contesting four rounds should she be successful in her performances.

“I’m hoping for better wave selection tomorrow. It’s super tricky to read the waves but hoping to improve and get two great scores in each heat.  I’m doing a lot of meditation to help with nerves as it makes me calm,” said Vette.

Mount Maunganui surfer Kehu Butler was another to advance through the repechage rounds today.  Butler dominated his late afternoon heat winning with a 14.40 point heat total surfing the shifty right hand point break of El Sunzal.  Butler faces a similar task to Vette on day 6 with three rounds to contest to keep his hopes alive of making the podium and Olympic qualification.

The two New Zealand surfers to be eliminated today were Dune Kennings (Piha) and Pia Rogers (WGM).

Kennings fell short in his third heat of the day to finish 61st overall after advancing through two rounds earlier in the day.

“Overall I felt like there was more to give and I didn’t have the performances I would of liked,” said Kennings.  “In saying that, I’m happy to be here representing and I definitely gave it my all with the heats I had.  Three heats in this heat is exhausting, but I loved every second of it. I’ll take a lot from this event and be back stronger and better” added Kennings.

Rogers found herself up against ex World Tour surfer Luana Silva (BRA) and Olympic surfer Anat Lelior (ISR).  The 16-year-old battled hard to keep up with the front runners but ultimately fell short in third place, finishing 55th overall.

Live action from Day six can be viewed via the link below.  Action takes place from approx. 2:00am NZ time each morning. – https://isasurf.org/event/2023-surf-city-el-salvador-isa-world-surfing-games/

Day 6 (6 June) schedule
Podium one
3:40am Women’s Main Round 4 (Paige Hareb)
5:20am Men’s Repechage Round 5 (Kehu Butler)
6:00am Men’s Repechage Round 6 subject to progression
8:00am Men’s Repechage Round 7 subject to progression

Podium two
2:20am Women’s Repechage Round 4 (Saffi Vette)
5:00am Women’s Repechage Round 5 subject to progression
7:00am Women’s Repechage Round 6 subject to progression
9:00am Women’s Repechage Round 7 subject to progression

The most recent World Surf Games event was held at Huntington Beach, USA where the Kiwis attended and placed 19th overall.

For further information regarding the New Zealand Surfing Team please contact Ben Kennings at Surfing New Zealand 0212278732 or email benkennings@surfingnz.co.nz.

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