Olympic qualification might not come into play for another year, but a strong performance from the New Zealand team at this year's ISA World Surfing Games could make a huge difference in 12 months.
Unlike the World Surf League circuits, the International Surfing Association World Games brings team performance into account, correlated from the individual performance of each surfer. The better you finish, the higher your team's seed for the next year.
Last year, the New Zealand team finished in 14th place. Raglan's Billy Stairmand said he was hoping the team could improve on that this time around.
"If the team does well then we'll get a good seed next year which I think is really crucial," Stairmand said. "Everyone will send their best team next year, so I think if we do well this year our seed will be higher and we won't get the bigger guys in the early rounds.
"I love representing New Zealand and competing for New Zealand. So the whole team thing for me is really fun and exciting … (and) in the long run the overall team event is important."
The New Zealand team is headlined by current Championship Tour surfer Paige Hareb, who links up with national champion Raiha Ensor and Elin Tawharu, while Zen Wallis and Levi Stewart join Stairmand in the men's competition. Tawharu was called up to replace former Junior World Champion Ella Williams, while Wallis and Stewart were called in after the withdrawals of Ricardo Christie and Kehu Butler.
With eight of the 20 men's Olympics spots and 10 of the 20 in the women's field to be decided at the World Games in the coming years, nations will have their top surfers looking to stake their claim. This year, though, only three current Championship Tour surfers are competing – Hareb, Australian Sally Fitzgibbons and Japan's Kanoa Igarashi. However, there are a number of others in the field with experience at the top level, including former World Champion Sofia Mulanovich of Peru, French duo Pauline Ado and Justine Dupont, and South African goofy-footer Bianca Buitendag.
This year's competition window opens at Long Beach in the Japanese city of Tahara on Sunday.