Duo riding the crest of a wave

Ella Williams and Billy Stairmand will be the first New Zealanders to surf at the Olympic Games....
Ella Williams and Billy Stairmand will be the first New Zealanders to surf at the Olympic Games. Photo: Getty Images
Surf's up — and two New Zealanders are about to make history.

Billy Stairmand and Ella Williams were yesterday named as the two members of the New Zealand team for the Tokyo Olympics, where the sport makes its debut.

The duo secured their spots with performances at the 2019 International Surfing Association World Games. Last year’s event was cancelled.

They hail from two of the most popular surf regions in the country — Williams lives in Whangamata and Stairmand is based in Raglan.

"This is a dream come true for me," Stairmand said.

"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 eight-time national 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 has been a busy period for Stairmand, who just received confirmation that he has
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, described 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,” she said.

Her parents taught her to surf when she was 4. When she was 8, 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.

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive 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," Smith said.

"These athletes will be helping to provide surfing with massive global exposure and will help the Olympic Games reach a new audience."

Surfing will be held at Tsurigasaki Beach, about an hour’s drive from Tokyo.

There will be 20 competitors in each class. Wave conditions permitting, competition is on July 25-28.

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