20-year-old Billy Stairmand of Raglan is the new National Champion after defeating his more experienced opponents in the final of the Hyundai National Surfing Championships completed at Gisborne today (Sunday 4th April). Stairmand was joined by another first time national champion Laura Rishworth of Mount Maunganui who won the Open Women's Division.
The final day of surfing was held in perfect 1.0m waves at Makorori Beach. Light winds and sunny skies had the length of the beach at capacity taking in amazing action from New Zealand's best surfers.
Stairmand has won Export Gold Series events before on his home waves at Raglan but like every surfer in New Zealand the feat of winning a national title tops everything.
"Winning a national title has always been a dream of mine. I have always looked up to Maz, Morehu and Ricardo and seen their names on the cup and then you actually win one yourself, to beat them is just amazing, it's a dream come true" said Stairmand after the final.
Stairmand posted 16.67 out of a possible 20 points. The remarkable thing is that he posted the scores within the first four minutes of the 30 minute final. He caught the first right hander to post a 6.5, paddled back out and caught a left under his three opponents noses. He then belted the lip of the wave through to the inside to post an excellent 9.0 point ride.
"Well I was lucky to get those first two waves, I hassled Morehu (Roberts) for the first wave and then paddled back out and got the next wave to push me way into the lead before anyone had even caught a wave. It just happened like that" commented Stairmand.
The unexpected start to the final had his three Gisborne opponents Richard Christie, Maz Quinn and Morehu Roberts dumfounded.
However the experience of his opponents and the perfect playground of waves had everyone on edge. Could Stairmand keep them at bay?
Quinn pushed his case posting a 5.93 before putting on his usual vertical backhand attack to post an 8.33 point ride bringing him right back into contention. That was to be all Quinn could find though with the ocean not playing ball and allowing him the opportunity to give it one last crack.
Christie was in combination land requiring more than a perfect score to beat Stairmand. He left his run too late but did surf to a 7.93 on his last wave completing a big air reverse. The score was enough to edge out Quinn for second but did not challenge Stairmand's lead.
Roberts placed fourth in his final unable to back up his victory at the most recent Export Gold Series event. However the final berth was still an excellent result despite everything not going his way in the ultimate heat of the event.
Stairmand joins a long line of New Zealand champions that date back to 1963. The prestige that comes with the cup is something that was by no means lost on Stairmand. "I was checking out the trophy the whole time but I didn't want to look too much and I didn't want to touch it in case I jinxed myself. Now I can check it out for the rest of the year."
Laura Rishworth (Mnt) took out a closely fought Open Women's final scoring 12.10 to beat her three young opponents. The average age of the Open Women's finalists was only 16 years but it was 20-year-old Rishworth that proved that with age comes some power and the big scores.
"It was good surfing with the younger girls and watching them step it up but I wanted to surf my best and make sure that the oldest surfer in the final won and I wanted to hold them off winning at such a young age" said Rishworth.
However the quietly spoken surfer did not have it her own way despite leading for much of the final and being the more powerful of the four finalists.
"I saw Grace (Spiers) get that last one and she did a big first turn and then it walled up all the way down the beach. I couldn't get another wave and didn't even know if I had won or not until the prize giving" said Rishworth. The wave she was referring to was the highest scoring ride of the final - 7.60 out of ten scored by Spiers for three big backhand re-entries. Despite the high score Spiers only had a 4.0 as her second scoring ride and had to settle for second.
Jayda Martin - Fitzharris (Gis) placed third in the final unable to repeat her performance from the Under 18 Girls Division scoring 10.33. Ella Williams (WGM) a triple finalist at the event finished in fourth place.
Johnny Hicks (Gis) completed a celebrated junior career with a win in the Under 18 Boys Division in front of an ecstatic home town crowd. Hicks' finals performance was highlighted by a crazy 9.0 point ride that included a huge fins free air reverse. He finished with a 15.50 point heat total compared to second placed Ben Poulter (Rag) on 14.53. Poulter had one last shot at the victory but requiring an 8.7, he fell short scoring 7.70 in the last minute of the final.
Hawkes Bay surfer Tyler Lawson finished the final in third place after leading the final early scoring a 6.27 and 5.50 on his first two waves but could not match the hot pace late in the final. Blake Myers (WGM) finished the final in fourth scoring 8.67.
Jayda Martin - Fitzharris (Gis) claimed Gisborne's sixth title of the event when she posted 12.57 to win the final. Martin - Fitzharris was stuck in second place for much of the final until one of her last waves she rode on her backhand scoring 6.73. The score was enough to jump her into first place ahead of Grace Spiers (WGM). Then Rosa Thompson had one last crack. Thompson surfed to the highest single wave score of the final - 7.00 out of a possible 10 but it was not enough to take the title, Thompson finishing in second. Spiers slipped back to third with Ella Williams (WGM) in fourth.
Ben Poulter (Rag) claimed his first ever national title in the Under 16 Boys after scoring a 12.73 heat total on his last two waves. Poulter struggled at the start of the heat as he and the other opponents jostled for priority to the point of being out of position. However the stoic young surfer fought his way back to the victory over Tane Wallis (Piha) who led the majority of the final.
Wallis who failed to find a good back up wave after scoring a 6.0 on his first wave of the final, finished in second place ahead of Patxi Scott - Arrieta (Sandy Bay) in third and Adam Grimson (Gis) in fourth.
Young Opunake surfer Royden Stewart claimed the Kneeboard Division over his senior counterparts. Stewart has continued to rise through the ranks of the Kneeboard fraternity and today he finally reached the pinnacle scoring 9.73 in the final for victory.
The Hyundai National Championships is the fourth of five events on the 2009/10 Export Gold Series with the final event, the Export Gold Super 16 taking place at Piha on the 23-24 April.
Open Men's Final
Billy Stairmand (Rag), 1, Richard Christie (Gis), 2, Maz Quinn (Gis), 3, Morehu Roberts (Gis), 4
Open Women's Final
Laura Rishworth (Mnt), 1, Grace Spiers (Whmata), 2, Jayda Martin-Fitzharris (Gis), 3, Ella Williams (Whmata), 4
Under 18 Men's Final
Johnny Hicks (Gis), 1, Ben Poulter (Rag), 2, Tyler Lawson (H-Bay), 3, Blake Myers (Whmata), 4
Under 18 Women's Final
Jayda Martin-Fitzharris (Gis), 1, Rosa Thompson (Auck), 2, Grace Spiers (Whmata), 3, Ella Williams (Whmata), 4
Under 16 Boys Final
Ben Poulter (Rag), 1, Tane Wallis (Piha), 2, Patxi Scott-Arietta (Sandy Bay), 3, Adam Grimson (Gis), 4
Under 16 Girls Final
Ella Williams (Whmata), 1, Jayda Martin-Fitzharris (Gis), 2, Ella Spiers (Whmata), 3, Bianca Sansom (Auck), N/S
Under 14 Boys Final
Elliot Paerata - Reid (Piha), 1, Dune Kennings (Whmata), 2, Korbin Hutchings (Gis), 3, Matt Hansen (Mnt), 4
Source: Surfing New Zealand