Whangamata Surf Shop will need to find long-term cover over the coming months as Ella Williams is heading to the Olympics in Tokyo.
Williams, who works in the surf shop which is owned by her parents, has been selected as one of New Zealand’s first-ever Olympic surfers, along with Raglan’s Billy Stairmand, representing the men.
The duo secured their Olympic spots with performances at the 2019 International Surfing Association World Games. With last year’s world’s cancelled, it meant those marks retained their importance.
Williams describes her selection for Tokyo as “so special”.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family so I’m super grateful to have them by my side every step of the way,” she says.
Williams’ parents, Dean and Janine, taught her to surf when she was four. When she was eight, she wrote of her ambition to be world champion on a surfing poster, which was on a wall beside her bed providing a constant ambition.
Williams, whose brother Braedon is also a keen surfer, remains the only New Zealand surfer to win the women’s world junior championship title – and that after receiving a wildcard into the event.
Stairmand, an eight-time New Zealand surfing champion, is also over the moon at his selection.
‘’This is a dream come true for me,’’ says Stairmand.
‘’Ever since surfing was named as a sport in the Olympics I put it at the top of my goals list.’’
The 31-year-old describes becoming the first male New Zealand Olympic surfer as “huge”.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has always backed me and believed in me. Anything is possible if you work hard.”
New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith has congratulated the pair.
"It's fantastic to have surfing in the Games and to have a male and female New Zealander representing us in Tokyo," says Smith.
"These athletes will be helping to provide surfing with massive global exposure and will help the Olympic Games reach a new audience. We wish you all the best for competition and will be cheering you on."
Surfing will be making its Olympic debut when competition begins at Tsurigasaki Beach, situated around an hour’s drive from Tokyo.
There will be 20 competitors in each class in Tokyo. Wave conditions permitting, competition is due to run from July 25-28.
It is one of six sports making their debut at the Olympics, along with softball, baseball, sport climbing, skateboarding and karate.