Japan – ISA World Surfing Games

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Woah what a week!
I’m not sure where to start. The ISA (International surfing association) World Games come around once a year and are held in a different country every year as over 42 countries compete at it so they try to share the love and the amount of travel between all the countries. This year it was in Japan, I think mainly because the ISA were the main influencers on getting surfing into the Tokyo2020 Olympic Games so they wanted to show the locals a little bit of what they can expect.

I have been to previous ISA World Games over the years including junior ones where my best result was 4th in U18girls. My next best result was I think several years ago in Peru where I got second, first place taken from in the last minute of the final by former WSL (World surf league) World Champion Chelsea Hedges (nee Georgeson).
After not competing at them for a couple of years I decided I wanted to represent New Zealand and try to get a gold medal! Also because ISA got surfing into the Olympics, I wanted to support their contest and get back in the swing of their contest as it will be compulsory to do them for the next two years if I want to try and get to the Tokyo2020 Olympics.

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Hanging out with 5 x Olympian Barbara Kendall! ❤

No offence at all to some of the other team members that went but when the original team was picked, it was one of the best NZ named teams I had seen in many years but unfortunately due to lack of funding and a few other commitments by others they had to pull out last minute. The lack of funding and commitment by people made me want to pull out too, I was just disappointed I guess. In saying that, I was still impressed with how well the team that came did and team NZ improved their position from last year from 14th to 9th. Pretty good for a small country out of 42.

With minimal funds it meant that team NZ had to try and do it as cheap as possible. We left it up to Surfing NZ and a travel agent to organize all our transfers and Accom etc with them telling us there would be free shuttles to and from the contest site everyday. Much to our surprise, there was no transport at all. Billy Stairmand and I were the oldest in the team so naturally we slipped into a management, captain, coach, Mum & Dad role for the rest of the team. Our only option was to rent a van worth over $1600 just for one week. They are really strict in Japan with rental cars and you need to have a international lisence otherwise they won’t rent you a car. Luckily I had got mine a few weeks before and was the only one on the team with one. Without me they would of been stuffed! So add that to the list of hats I wore this past week as I became the sole driver too.

We started the week with the opening ceremony and a parade where all 42 nations captains and a flag bearer go up on stage to pour sand into a clear box taken from their home beaches, a pretty cool ceremony where all the countries are having fun and getting along with each other. Over the years it’s become a well known thing that when it’s New Zealand’s turn to get up on stage our whole team race up, the guys whip off their shirts and we all perform the haka. Everyone loves it, especially the girls haha!

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Men L-R: Levi Stewart, Zen Wallis, Billy Stairmand Women L-R: Raiha Ensor, Paige Hareb, Elin Tawharu

The contest started off well, with some big tricky conditions but the kiwis managed it well. It’s such a great week and different vibe compared to all the competitions I do because you’re there as a team supporting each other as well as surfing individually. It’s almost more pressure because you just want to do really well for your team and country and not let them down. The six of us (now that equality is a big thing in surfing – three men and three ladies) got along really well and had a great team vibe and attitude the whole week no matter what was thrown at us, I was very proud of the whole team, the way they surfed and the way they represented NZ in and out of the water.

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Sally Fitzgibbons (aus) and I, long time friends and competitors

It got down to the final few days and I was the last one standing for team NZ. Super happy but at the same time felt a bit of weight on my shoulders to lead the team to a good overall ranking. The whole event I felt like I was building nicely and surfing better and better each heat leading up towards the final. In the semi final, I even won it beating eventual event winner Sally Fitzgibbons, Long time friend and a bloody Aussie! 😉 So I had a whole lot of confidence going into the final but unfortunately Sally absolutely blitzed the final, leaving the rest of us needing extra big scores. Obviously as a competitor you always want to win and I was going for gold but if anyone had said you’ll get second this week, I would of taken it any day if the week! Super happy and big thanks to the rest of the team for all your positive vibes and amazing support! To my sponsors for getting me there and believing in me, Thankyou!!

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1st Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 2nd Paige Hareb (NZL), 3rd Biana Buitentag (ZAF), 4th Summer Maecedo (USA)

 

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