The introduction of high performance training could close the gap between Kiwi surfers and the rest of the world.

Due to a lack of funding for the sport, the high level of strength and conditioning, psychological and sport-specific training needed to perform consistently at the top level hasn't been available to developing athletes.

However, with the sport being added to the Olympics, Surfing New Zealand has acted, holding the first of three self-funded camps for Kiwi athletes this month.

Ella Williams took part in the first high performance camp held by Surfing New Zealand. Photo: Cory Scott / NZ Surfing Magazine
Ella Williams took part in the first high performance camp held by Surfing New Zealand. Photo: Cory Scott / NZ Surfing Magazine

While it's come 17 years after Maz Quinn became the first Kiwi to reach the World Surf League Championship Tour (CT), 2013 junior world champion Ella Williams said it was a huge step forward for the sport.

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"Places like Australia and that are a little more advanced but at least it's happening now. This is the start of something totally new, and I'm glad it's happening now rather than still not happening at all."

Since Quinn, Ricardo Christie (2015), Sarah Mason (2012) and Paige Hareb (2009-14, 2018-) have qualified as full-time CT athletes but no local high performance training has existed.

Williams, who has made a few wildcard appearances on the CT, is one of several Kiwis competing on the World Surf League qualifying series with the hope of cracking the CT. However, the Olympics are now another goal.

"It's come at the right time, we definitely need it now more than ever. I think it'll be great for us to make the most of it," the 22-year-old said of the training.

"Kiwis in general have so much raw talent and if you can add what these people on the world stage have compared to us, we could just do so much damage."

Williams was one of more than 30 Kiwi surfers to attend the first camp, alongside fellow QS athletes Billy Stairmand and Christie.

Christie, who competed on the world tour in 2015, said the additional impact high performance training would have, particularly on younger athletes, will show on the world stage.

"It's not something I was introduced to at a young age. Having all those things in place for all the young kids that were there, getting introduced to that kind of thing at like 13, 14 years old is really amazing and important for them," Christie said.

"It's taken me my whole career to kind of learn about all that stuff on my own from watching what other countries are doing. If we've got a community in New Zealand using all that info and feeding it to young kids, it's going to work out, for sure."

The second and third camps will run in June and August, ahead of the ISA World Surfing Games in September. While the camps were currently self-funded by the athletes, Surfing New Zealand's Ben Kennings said they were hoping to secure funding in future.

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