Kiwi pair familiar with Tahitian waves

Surfer Billy Stairmand in action before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games New Zealand surfing team...
Surfer Billy Stairmand in action before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games New Zealand surfing team selection announcement at Manu Bay in Raglan yesterday. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES
New Zealand’s surfers have already had a taste of the spectacular waves that will greet them at the Olympic Games.

Billy Stairmand (Raglan) and Saffi Vette (Gisborne) were yesterday named to the New Zealand team for the Paris Olympics.

They will not be in France, however.

Fellow team member Saffi Vette.
Fellow team member Saffi Vette.
The Kiwi pair have just spent two weeks training at the Olympic venue of Teahupo’o, in Tahiti, which is regarded as one of the most spectacular reef breaks in the world.

"The wave itself is intense," Stairmand said.

"It’s short and sharp and really critical. There’s no room for errors but I learnt so much on my last trip over there. I got some amazing barrels and became way more comfortable and confident in that lineup."

Paris will be the second Olympic Games for eight-time national champion Stairmand.

"It’s unbelievable to be going to my second Olympics. I’m super proud.

"I’m stoked to be representing New Zealand again and I know I can do something special over there."

It will be an Olympic debut for Vette, who recently secured a place on the World Surf League Challenger Series, alongside some of the best surfers in the world.

"It’s a dream come true," Vette said.

"I watched the Olympics growing up but never thought surfing would be involved. It’s a huge opportunity to be among so many amazing athletes and it’s a pretty massive achievement for a girl from Gisborne."

For Vette, the accomplishment is particularly meaningful.

The 22-year-old lost her father, Andrew, in 2020.

Her late father was the driving force behind her surfing, she said.

"Dad introduced me to surfing and I’m so grateful for that.

"I want to work hard for something that he’s given me, this opportunity to excel in a sport that I love.

"I also want to thank my mum as well - she’s always been amazing and has really helped me to keep the dream alive these past few years. I wouldn’t be where I am without them and without the community I’ve had around me."

The duo secured their Olympic spots with strong performances at the International Surfing Association World Games in El Salvador last year.

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Nicki Nicol congratulated the pair.

"It’s fantastic to have surfing in the Games and to have a male and female New Zealander representing us in Tahiti," Nicol said.

The Olympic surfing competition will take place over four days in a nine-day swell window, from July 27 to August 4.

Surfing made its debut appearance at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago.