Surfing win part of Stairmand's game plan
Raglan's Billy Stairmand is living his surfing dream, and loving it.
On Saturday the 22-year-old took out the open men's title at the national championships in Piha, which has put him in great stead for what's to come on his agenda.
The man who last year beat legendary American Kelly Slater at Margaret River, took out his second national title after also triumphing in 2010.
"It's pretty good to start the year off like that," Stairmand said. "I'm at home with my friends and family, it's good to start the year with a national title and, hopefully, it's going to be a good year ."
Next month, Stairmand heads to Australia's Burleigh Heads and then straight to the Australian Open in Manly, before jetting off to America and Europe.
Stairmand headed back to Raglan yesterday after celebrating the victory in Auckland on Saturday night and it sounds like he certainly enjoyed it as he: "filled up the cup with vodka, Red Bull, and had a good time".
Born in Hamilton, Stairmand grew up in Raglan and he had always dreamed of doing what he's doing.
"I've grown up in a little surf town, all my best mates they were older than me and they surfed and I just wanted to look up to them and have a good time.
And I ended up surfing for a profession and I'm loving it," Stairmand said.
Stairmand stormed to the second national title victory of his career with a near flawless performance in the final.
He surfed to a 17.10 point heat total using his impeccable backhand surfing on the lefthanders of Piha Bar.
The 22-year-old is ranked 79th in the world, New Zealand's third highest ranked surfer internationally.
On Saturday, Stairmand notched up several excellent scores in quick succession in the final, his two highest, 8.90 and 8.20 point rides.
He won his first national title in 2010 at Gisborne in a similar fashion after getting a massive lead on his opponents and never relenting.
"It is good to start the year winning a national title, I am going overseas soon so it is good for my confidence and everything," Stairmand said.
Despite the ease of the win, Stairmand remained focused on what he was doing and keeping to a game plan.
"Every heat is hard, I just wanted to catch the best waves out there, I saw some on the bar and wanted to get them and it paid off."
It was a big decision for Stairmand to surf up the beach.
He and fellow finalist Chris Malone (Gisborne) were the first surfers of the day to do so.
However, with the outgoing tide and building swell, the strategy paid off handsomely.
"I had seen people getting one or two turns down the beach but I knew if I could get a runner on the bar it would be better than that," Stairmand said. "I started with a six and then it went from there. I was going wave for wave with Chris and I knew Timmy (Mt Maunganui's Tim O'Connor) was down the beach but I was feeling confident after the first wave and yeah it all just happened."
Malone finished runner-up in the final, scoring 9.5 out of 20 points, with O'Connor third, surfing the whole 25 minutes of the final on his own at the north end of the beach.
Matt Hewitt (Mt Maunganui) was supposed to be the fourth surfer in the final but had to travel to Australia to compete in the final World Pro Junior event.
In a twist of fate his heat in Australia was contested at the exact same time as the final in Piha and he won his heat against surfers from Brazil and Australia.
Thandi Durham-Tipene (Taranaki) claimed her first open women's title in style, posting a 5.40 on her last wave to jump from third to first in the dying seconds of the final. Whangamata's Ella Williams finished third.
In the under-18 men's final, Whangamata's Dune Kennings was third and Raglan's Ben Poulter came fourth.
Williams claimed the under-18 girls' division and Kennings defended his under-16 boys' title.
Ben Kennings, of Whangamata, took out the masters over 35s event and Geoff Hutchison (Raglan) the grandmasters over 45s.