Grounded surfer set on making most of break

Raglan pro surfer Billy Stairmand says he’s ready to “travel and search New Zealand” in the wake of the country’s Covid-19 lockdown and after the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.

About the time he should have been packing his bags for Japan he’ll likely instead be on the road in his brand-new surf wagon – which comes courtesy of a Giltrap Skoda sponsorship – exploring both surf and snow spots he’s not had the time to check out till now.

And he says he’ll be making some video clips to put on the internet and show off his Kiwi heritage.

Despite having travelled the world competing, the former Raglan Surfing Academy student reckons New Zealand is still the most clean, green, healthy country of all and he’s going to make the most of it while foreign countries are off limits.

And “nothing’s really changed”, he told the Chronicle of the near certainty he’ll become an Olympian, even if the Games have been delayed a year. “I’ve still got my provisional spot.”

He and Whangamata pro surfer Ella Williams both qualified late last year to represent New Zealand in Tokyo. For the kid who grew up riding Raglan’s waves it was – as Billy told the Chronicle at the time– a dream come true.

Right now he should’ve been in El Salvador competing at the ISA World Games, which is the final qualifying event for the Olympic Games.

Instead he’s been enjoying more family time during lockdown including “trying to grow veggies”, he laughs.

The 30 year old has also been training at home where he has weights, bands and an exercise bike set up in his garage. He’ll soon hit the local gym too, he says, having been unable to surf since early March and currently uncharacteristically reliant on land-based activity.

Ironically that’s nothing to do with the global pandemic and the cancellation as a consequence of all World Surf League (WSL) and International Surfing Association (ISA) events.   

As it happens Billy had suffered a grade three MCL strain in his knee while attempting an aerial manoeuvre during competition in Australia, and was out of action before the lockdown even began.

So in a bizarre sense the global crisis “was almost good timing for me,” he admits. “I had to stay off my leg and do nothing for six weeks.”

However he’s been in regular online contact with his physio and could finally venture to
Auckland for treatment last week with the drop to alert level 2.

Billy is philosophical about the sudden turn of events which has postponed his Olympic dream. While he was more than ready this year, physically and mentally, he now sees the delay as a chance “to prepare a bit better and get myself fit and healthy”.

And he’s still hellbent on achieving that other goal – the WSL Championship Tour – as he continues his climb up the world qualifying rankings, in which he’s currently No 34.

Edith Symes