When the New Zealand team heads to the International Surfing Association world games in Japan in September, they'll be there to do damage.

With their eyes firmly on Olympic qualification, Surfing New Zealand announced what shapes up as the country's strongest-ever team for the competition, including current World Surf League Championship Tour (CT) athlete Paige Hareb.

In 2019, the ISA World Games will be a compulsory competition for those hoping to gain Olympic qualification and the Kiwi contingent go in with that in mind.

Joining Hareb on the team was former CT surfer Ricardo Christie, ex-World Junior Champion Ella Williams, reigning national women's champion Raiha Ensor, multiple national title winner Billy Stairmand and promising youngster Kehu Butler.


With the event being held in Japan this year, Stairmand said he would approach it as somewhat of a trial run for 2019 when it really counts.

Both the men's and women's fields will consist of 20 athletes in the 2020 Olympic Games, with 19 qualification places up for grabs, and the final spot going to an athlete from the host nation.

However, countries can only send a maximum of four athletes, two men and two women, to the event.

In the women's Olympics line-up, the eight top-ranked surfers at the end of the 2019 CT earn a spot – with the next highest finisher gaining a spot should three surfers from one country qualify. A further six athletes will qualify through the 2020 International Surfing Association (ISA) world games, while the highest-placed athlete from each continent at the 2019 ISA world games, aside from the Americas, will obtain one of five qualification spots. For the Americas, the spot is decided by results from the 2019 Pan American Games.

The men's Olympic qualification criteria is a touch different to the women's, with the top 10 at the end of the 2019 CT season securing qualification for the Olympics and just four through the 2020 ISA world games. The continental representation criteria remains the same as the women's field.

Stairmand admitted there would be some in-fighting amongst the Kiwi contingent when it came to Olympic qualification - but that wouldn't be anything new.

"Ricardo and I have been battling against each other for a while on the Qualifying Series and at nationals, so it's just another thing to add to that."

Stairmand was set to spend a while in Japan before the event, starting with a Qualifying Series (QS) event next week.

Due to financial pressure, he hasn't been competing in as many QS events as he'd like this year - having to wait for those with the most points on offer. However, he's been buoyed by local support he's received after launching a crowdfunding campaign to help him fund his tour and Olympics bid.

"It's so cool to see all the support. It's almost like an extra confidence booster."