Local elite surfer Billy Stairmand had an exciting year in 2021 being one of a few select surfers chosen to represent their country with surfing’s debut at the Tokyo Olympics. Having carved out a slice of history as Olympian number 1497, the eight-time National Champion chats to the Local Rag about his latest adventures and what he has planned for the year ahead.
Firstly Billy where are you currently and what are you competing in?
I’m currently in Australia at the moment competing in some regional world qualifying series events. I’m doing six competitions in Australia and here for at least six weeks.
Last year you represented NZ at the Olympics in Tokyo. Raglan was particularly proud. What was the lead up and anticipation like before making the journey ?
Yeah the Olympics was such an amazing experience. The preparation and lead up to the games was a new and a fun learning curve for me. I was training a lot, eating the right food and preparing myself to take on the best in the world. I was so excited to be heading to Japan and be competing in the Olympics. I wanted to put my best foot forward and prepare the best I could. I was very dedicated to being the best athlete I could.
How would you describe your Olympic team experience in the village in Tokyo?
Honestly, being a part of the NZ team was so amazing. The team welcomed us with open arms. They supported us through the whole process, making sure we were as comfortable as possible for competition. The whole team was so friendly and helpful. All the athletes where super fun and cool to chat to. I learnt a lot talking to the athletes and wanted to take as much onboard as I could. The over-all experience in the village was epic. It was crazy to think, walking around the Olympic village, that basically everyone in there was the best in their country at their sport. And I was amongst those people. Pretty cool.
How about the actual competition itself? What was going through your head and how did you feel afterwards? What will you take away from it?
I was actually super confident and comfortable in competition. I had done all the right preparation and I was there for a reason. I just wanted to enjoy the whole process. Coming up against the best in the world you have to give it everything; especially when you have world champion and eventual gold medallist Italo. I feel I left everything out in the water in that heat. So I’m happy with the way it all went.
How much did Covid affect these experiences?
For us the Olympic experience was new. So we didn’t really know any different. It would have been amazing to have friends and family there on the beach supporting. But I was concentrating so hard on getting a medal that I wasn’t really focused on other distractions.
What have you spent time doing since coming home?
I had a really busy year last year. After Tokyo I travelled to America, Europe and Hawaii doing more events and only got home a week before Christmas. So over summer I’ve been really enjoying my surroundings. Enjoying time with my wife and the animals. Family and friends. Exploring new parts of New Zealand. I feel very refreshed and happy and ready for another big year.
What does 2022 look like for you?
2022 is gonna be another big year for me. I still have a dream of making the championship tour. So I’m going to do the regional WQS events in hopes of qualifying for the challenger series events. And then hopefully qualify for the championship tour. I also want to qualify for the next Olympic Games and that is only 2 years away. So my preparation for that will start again now and I’m looking forward to it.
What would you say to the younger ones in our community who might look at your surfing success and be inspired?
If you have goals and really believe you can achieve them, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Hard work, dedication and self belief is a huge thing for me. If you believe you… you will achieve!