Kiwi surfers Billy Stairmand and Saffi Vette provisionally qualified for Paris 2024 today (Tuesday 6th June) securing the Oceania continental spots on up for grabs at the 2023 ISA World Surfing Games being held in El Salvador.
Other surfers to qualify continental spots today included South African superstar Jordy Smith and Shino Matsuda of Japan.
A total of eight provisional continental qualification spots were up for grabs at this event – one male and one female for each continent (excluding the Americas) – Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania. With Australia filling their quota of four surfers via the WSL World Championship Tour, this event becomes the best path to Paris for New Zealand surfers.
New Zealand currently sits eleventh at the event which is led by front runners Brazil, Peru and France who fill the top three positions with two days of surfing remaining.
Billy Stairmand is the sole Kiwi alive in the event heading into the penultimate day after Saffi Vette (Gis), Paige Hareb (Tara) and Kehu Butler (Mnt) were eliminated in today’s action.
Gisborne’s Saffi Vette had an edge-of-the-seat run through multiple repechage rounds today, advancing to repechage round 7 before bowing out after a tough heat against Daniella Rosas (PER) and Silvana Lima (BRA) in what was a low scoring affair. The result saw Vette leapfrog Paige Hareb in overall standings to claim the Oceania spot as the top ranked athlete from the region.
On confirmation of her provisional qualification Saffi commented “I am so stoked, it’s so surreal it hasn’t really sunk in yet. To be honest I am absolutely over the moon to have qualified. I have watched the Olympics my whole life so to have qualified and to be in it is just amazing it’s a dream come true I am so stoked.”
On Sunday morning, Paige Hareb secured a come-from-behind heat progression to advance into the Olympic qualification zone. Unfortunately, in the process of surfing her best wave of the heat Hareb also injured her knee which was later confirmed via MRI to be a grade 2 MCL tear.
Despite best advice to rest her knee, with qualification on the line, Hareb decided to surf todays heats firstly in round four against Sol Aguierre (PER), and Francisca Veselko (POR). However, it was clear her knee was problematic and she was relegated to repechage round 6. Not one to give up without a fight, Hareb put it all on the line again surfing another heat. Unfortunately, it was just not to be and although putting a 4.96 point ride on the board, she was unable to compete with an inform Ellie Harrison (AUS) and Nadia Erostarbe (ESP). That brought Hareb’s campaign to an end with a 25th place finish.
In the men’s division Billy Stairmand has advanced to the last twelve surfers in the main round. He will surf early Wednesday morning against Jordy Smith, Cody Young (CAN) and Alan Cleland (MEX) in round 5 heat 2.
Today the International Surfing Association (ISA) confirmed that Stairmand has also provisionally qualified for Paris 2024 as the highest placed male from the Oceania continent. Pending selection by the NZOC, this will be Stairmand’s second Olympics after being the first ever male surfer from New Zealand to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan where he placed ninth.
On the announcement today Stairmand commented “I am super stoked to get the Olympic spot, it’s been an amazing week with the team. Qualifying for the Games is crazy, from Tokyo to today, it’s just surreal I have been in touch with friends and family in New Zealand, we are stoked it’s an incredible feeling. I am really proud of my efforts, but I am still going. I still have a job to do, I really want to bring back a World Surfing Games medal.
On the prospect of surfing Teahupoo Stairmand said “I have never been to Tahiti so I will be pushing my surfing to the next level, once I get home it’ll be straight into preparation its new and exciting, I can’t wait I am truly honoured to have earned this opportunity again and super proud, hopefully I can bring back an Olympic medal.
Mount Maunganui surfer Kehu Butler had been advancing through repechage rounds well until Tuesday morning when he fell short in repechage heat 5. Up against Joao Chianca (BRA), Francisco Bellorin (VEN) and Giorgio Gomez (COL). Butler was in contention until the very end keeping busy with a high wave count to try and find the best scoring potential. Unfortunately, he was unable to find the required 6.73 to advance and he bowed out of competition in 37th.
The ISA World Surfing Games are taking place from the 30 May – 7 June with 297 athletes from a record breaking 63 countries in attendance.
Live action from Day seven can be viewed via the link below. Action takes place from approx. 2:00am NZ time each morning. – https://isasurf.org/event/2023-surf-city-el-salvador-isa-world-surfing-games/