Six of the country’s top surfers will compete at the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games being held in Costa Rica in early August. The event commences only days after IOC members vote on the inclusion of surfing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The team will be led by Billy Stairmand (Rag) and Ella Williams (WGM) as our top two ranked surfers on the World Qualifying Series. Stairmand is joined by Matt Hewitt (Mnt), Taylor Hutchison (Rag) and Zen Wallis (Piha) in the Men’s Division. Williams is joined by Raiha Ensor (Mnt) in the Women’s Division.
The World Surfing Games are being held at Jaco Beach starting on the 6th August with close to thirty nations expected to be in attendance. The hosts are the defending champions and the country’s passion for the sport is expected to reach fever pitch should their team defend their title.
IOC members are expected to vote on surfing’s inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at some stage during the first three days of August during the Rio Olympics.
New Zealand athletes may well be in a position to use this year’s event in Costa Rica as the first step toward a four year Olympic plan.
Stairmand is currently the top ranked Kiwi surfer in the world; his good form this year seeing him ranked 16th on the World Qualifying Series. With the US Open of Surfing being held in California during late July, Stairmand has opted to jump on a plane immediately after the event and head south to Costa Rica to compete for New Zealand. Stairmand has been unavailable for selection over the past two years due to his WQS schedule.
Team mates Matt Hewitt and Zen Wallis have competed for New Zealand on several occasions including the 2015 ISA World Surfing Games held in Nicaragua. They are joined by new comer Taylor Hutchison who will attend the event for the first time. Hutchison was part of the New Zealand Junior Team in 2015 and will make the step up out of the Under 18 division.
Ella Williams secured bronze for New Zealand in 2015. She was one of the form surfers of the event before coming up one wave short in the final.
Williams also finished on the podium at the 2013 edition of the event placing fourth.
Like Stairmand, Williams will head south from California after competing at the Super Girl Pro prior to the event. She will spend two weeks training in Costa Rica before the event gets underway.
Williams is joined by 16-year-old Raiha Ensor who will perform double duty competing at this event as well as the World Junior Championships which are being held in the Azores Islands located off Portugal during September. The up-and-coming surfer has already represented New Zealand at the Rip Curl GromSearch International Final held in Hawaii earlier in the year where she placed third.
The New Zealand Team is ranked eighth in the world qualifying them to compete in the Aloha Cup Tag Team event which includes the top eight nations at the event.
Host nation Costa Rica claimed the team gold medal from 27 nations in 2015 edging out Portugal and USA in second and third respectively.
The 2016 New Zealand Surfing Team is as follows:
Billy Stairmand (Rag)
Matt Hewitt (Mnt)
Taylor Hutchison (Rag)
Zen Wallis (Piha)
Ella Williams (WGM)
Raiha Ensor (Mnt)