Japan Welcomes NZ Surfing Team For World Surfing Games
Above: Paige Hareb / Photo: WSL
The New Zealand Surfing Team has arrived in Japan and is set to contest the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games starting Sunday (16th September). While team members have individual goals which include Olympic aspirations, the one thing on everyone’s mind is to improve their team ranking and finish well inside the top ten nations.
The ISA UR World Surfing Games is contested over seven days at Tahara Beach with over 200 athletes from 42 nations in attendance.
New Zealand’s lone World Tour surfer Paige Hareb (Tara) has taken time out of her international schedule to join the New Zealand Team and has the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in her sights.
“I haven’t done the World Surfing Games for a couple of years and with the Olympics in 2020, I wanted to get back in the groove of them since I will have to compete at them the next two years as well. It’s always fun going as a team and representing your country” commented Paige who is on the hunt for a gold medal.
“A podium finish is definitely on my mind, my best result at these games has been a second so it would be amazing to go one more but I’d love even more if our team can finish in the top 10 countries too!”
Raglan’s Billy Stairmand has competed in Japan a number of times and relished the chance to get back and compete for New Zealand.
“Yeah I have always loved Japan, ever since the first time I came here and got a third and every year after that I have had the most amazing time” said Stairmand.
“But also I love being a part of the team. It means I get to travel with a team to represent New Zealand on a high level. I love the whole team feel” added Stairmand who has spent the majority of his career competing as an individual on the World Qualifying Series.
Like Hareb, Olympic qualification is on Stairmand’s mind and he intends to discuss the opportunities with the team in the build up to the event. He believes that New Zealand has one of the strongest and most hungriest teams at the event with ‘a good vibe’ which bodes well for their performance next week.
The swell forecast looks promising for the week with waves in the ‘overhead range’. Tahara Beach offers up peaky beach break conditions with super warm water.
Stairmand is supported by Zen Wallis (Piha) and Levi Stewart (Waihi Beach) in men’s division while Raiha Ensor (Mnt) and Elin Tawharu (Mnt) join Hareb in the women’s division.
Tawharu and Stewart are first time members of the New Zealand Team while National Champion Raiha Ensor is contesting the event for a third time and Zen Wallis a sixth time.
New Zealand placed 14th overall in 2017 with the French taking the title in home waters. From 2019, the World Surfing Games becomes compulsory for all surfers aspiring to go to Tokyo 2020.
The 2018 New Zealand Surfing Team is as follows:
Billy Stairmand (Raglan)
Zen Wallis (Piha)
Levi Stewart (Waihi Beach)
Elin Tawharu (Mount Maunganui)
Paige Hareb (Taranaki)
Raiha Ensor (Mount Maunganui)
The Olympic qualification process starts with the World Surf League (WSL) where ten males and 8 females on the 2019 World Tour will directly qualify for Tokyo 2020. No more than two athletes per nation can qualify via this process.
2018 marks the lead-in to Olympic qualification via the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games. A good team result in 2018 will set up nations with a good seed for their first qualification attempt at the 2019 World Surfing Games. The top ranked male and female from the Oceania Region at the 2019 event will qualify for Tokyo 2020.
Athletes have a further chance to qualify for the Olympics at the 2020 ISA World Surfing Games where the final four males and six females in each division will be determined by the top placing athletes at that event. The selections will then need to be ratified by the New Zealand Olympic Committee before being confirmed.