Ella Williams might have found the best way to not get hung up on what she needs to achieve for Olympic Games qualification: you can't be consumed by something no one really understands.

The Kiwi surfer will be one of six representing New Zealand at the international Surfing Association world games next week in Japan, which will present the first opportunity for athletes to earn a spot in the lineup for surfing's Olympic Games debut in 2020.

While it might be an exaggeration to say no one understands it, the Olympic qualification criteria has been a source of much confusion, with various ways to earn qualification stretched across the 2019 World Surf League Championship Tour and the ISA World Games this year and next.

Williams, currently in Spain for the next stop on the World Surf League qualifying series, said Olympic qualification was all very complicated โ€“ but that made things a little bit easier for athletes.

"It's the best way to not overthink things," she said. "I kind of just focus on my surfing anyway and doing my thing and then if it all comes together at the end of it, usually your surfing does the talking. If you just surf, have fun and do your thing the results will come and all that will flow into it.


"I try not to overthink it because you can totally get mixed up with all the points and how to qualify, you can really overthink the whole situation."

For the Olympics, only four surfers (two men and two women) can represent a country. The qualification process starts with the CT where 10 men and eight directly qualify for Tokyo 2020 โ€“ with the next best surfer gaining qualification should a country's quota be filled.

For this year's ISA World Games, the top ranked male and female from each continent will qualify for Tokyo 2020. With Australia likely to have both their men's and women's spots filled on the CT, this provides a great opportunity for the first two Kiwis to qualify. Should they do so, the selections would then need to be ratified by the New Zealand Olympic Committee before being confirmed.

Athletes have a further chance to qualify for the Olympics at the 2020 ISA World Games where the final four males and six females in each division will be determined by the top placing athletes at the event.

Ella Williams. Photo: Cory Scott / Surfing New Zealand
Ella Williams. Photo: Cory Scott / Surfing New Zealand

Williams will be joined in the women's field by Kiwi CT competitor Paige Hareb and former national champion Raiha Ensor, with CT surfer Ricardo Christie, QS veteran Billy Stairmand and reigning junior QS champion Kehu Butler in the men's competition.

"It's a super strong team this year," Williams said. "I think one of the strongest we've ever had. We have a great chance."

In 2018, New Zealand finished ninth in the teams standings, with Paige Hareb coming second in the women's field.

It will be a quick turnaround for many of the surfers competing, with the major QS events in Spain just days prior. Both men's and women's QS' stop in Spain for one of the biggest contests on the calendar, with vital points on offer towards qualification to next year's CT.

Ella Williams has been in Europe competing on the World Surf League qualifying series. Photo / WSL
Ella Williams has been in Europe competing on the World Surf League qualifying series. Photo / WSL

Williams, currently ranked 41st on the QS said having to jump from one competition straight into the next was probably a good thing.

"It's a mental turnaround. It's super quick, but it's quite good. We've been over in Europe for a couple of weeks now so it's good to keep that rolling.

"I guess they had to fit it in around the Championship Tour competitions and us qualifying series surfers, so I guess they had to just find a slot where we're all in one area and make it work. But it's good; we've all obviously been competing in and around the Japan event so it's probably a good thing to keep on the roll."