Billy Stairmand Riding the wave

Olympic hopeful Billy Stairmand, along with fellow Kiwi, Ella Williams, is set to chase gold in Tokyo this year, as surfing makes its debut as part of the summer games.

Olympic hopeful Billy Stairmand, along with fellow Kiwi, Ella Williams, is set to chase gold in Tokyo this year, as surfing makes its debut as part of the summer games. The Raglan native has achieved plenty during an action-packed career on the world circuit, beating many of the best in the process. But there’s still room for plenty more.

Olympic hopeful Billy Stairmand, along with fellow Kiwi, Ella Williams, is set to chase gold in Tokyo this year, as surfing makes its debut as part of the summer games. The Raglan native has achieved plenty during an action-packed career on the world circuit, beating many of the best in the process. But there’s still room for plenty more.


“Being selected for the New Zealand squad with Ella [Williams] was obviously a massive high-point for me – absolute top of my goal list,” he says. “There was a lot of momentum building at that time, with qualifying at the ISA World Surfing Games in Japan and then the Piha Pro and the ISA round in El Salvador just before Tokyo all ahead on the calendar. When each event was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak – and then it even became clear the Olympics weren’t going to happen – it was a bit of a shock,” he says.

However, as it transpired, the cancellation of the World Surf League ‘Piha Pro’ in March 2020 (which would have represented the single biggest professional surf championship round to have ever been staged in New Zealand) became a moot point for Billy. “I was surfing in Australia the week before the Piha Pro and tore my MCL. That put me out of the water for almost three months, so it was pretty cut-and dried that I was going to miss the WSL round anyway. I was still amped for El Salvador and, obviously, just wanted to be back on my board for Tokyo. “That’s just the way it is though. I’m hoping we will get to compete at the Olympics as planned this year – indications that we are going are good at the moment. And I’ve done well in Japan before; the waves are pretty small and you’ve got to work super hard, but they suit my style. I’m pretty small compared to some of the other guys, but I have a low centre of gravity which benefits you on the board and that comes into play at Chiba, where surfing will make it's games debut. 


Having battled it out on the beaches of New Zealand for many seasons as a grom and into his teens, it was in 2011 when the Stairmand name became a household one even outside of surf circles. At the Telstra Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River in Western Australia, the then-22-year-old beat the legendary Kelly Slater, establishing himself on the international stage. Billy’s current hold on the 36th spot of the World Surf League table means – under normal circumstances – if he isn’t in the ocean, he’s on a plane jetting off with his board bags to another break in another part of the world.

Of course, these aren’t normal times yet Billy is still travelling. A few days after we caught up with him, he was on a plane to Australia to compete at the northern beaches of Sydney. At that time Australia was exercising it’s ‘no quarantine’ allowance to Kiwis arriving in Sydney, which suited Billy’s sometimes frantic schedule fine, naturally.

Events and opportunities haven’t always flowed so well for the boy from Raglan though. Three years ago, things were particularly tough. “I lost a major sponsor after about 12 years of having their support. Basically, I wasn’t turning in the results at that point, so I understand why the decision was made. Unfortunately, on top of that I then lost my mum to breast cancer. It was sudden and yeah, it was really hard on all of us. “On the professional side of things, I just went out and got a normal day job – you just have to keep moving after all. I never lost my love of competing through that time though, and I climbed back from there. “I’m lucky living in Raglan. I’m obviously a bit biased but I reckon it has the best surfing in the country; being such a great spot, there are always good surfers there too, so that motivates me to push harder.” So, a gold medal in Tokyo? Billy won’t be drawn on his chances in any detailed way. He has plenty on his plate beforehand after all.

However, in this game if you’ve got it; you’ve got it. That’ll be quite evident.

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