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After an exceptional third placing at the Australian Open two days ago, Billy Stairmand (Rag) returns to New Zealand to compete at the O'Neill Sequence Surf Shop Pro at Gisborne this coming weekend (25 - 26 February).
The O'Neill Sequence Surf Shop Pro is the third of four events on the New Zealand Pro Series.
Stairmand, who also won the National Championships at Piha in January surfed to third at the Australian Open at Manly Beach, Sydney securing one of his best ever results at international level. The explosive natural footer now finds himself ranked 22nd in the world as he starts a new year with the ambition of qualifying for the Association of Surfing Professionals World Title Series.
"I am so stoked with the result in the weekend" Stairmand said. "I surfed a lower rated event at Burleigh Heads a couple of weeks ago then this event at Manly which was huge. I wanted to start the year well and had my eye on at least a quarterfinals or semifinals finish and achieved that" he added.
Stairmand wants that good run of results to continue this weekend as he heads to Gisborne alongside several other surfers returning from Australia. Stairmand fully understands the importance of keeping his performances sharp during his two week stint back in New Zealand and this event is the perfect platform to do that.
Fellow returning surfers Richard Christie (Mah) and Matt Hewitt (Mnt) have also confirmed their entries for this weekend with the three surfers expected to raise the level of surfing considerably.
Christie is currently ranked 72nd with Hewitt in 81st after he surfed to 37th place at Manly. Gisborne local Jay Quinn who now resides in Australia is ranked 52nd giving New Zealand four surfers ranked inside the top 100 for the first time in over a decade. However Quinn, the defending champion of the O'Neill Sequence Surf Shop Pro, will remain in Australia and will not compete this weekend.
Also returning for the event this weekend will be the younger Kiwi's competing on the ASP Australasia Pro Junior Series. They will be led by hometown surfer Johnny Hicks, Alex Dive (Mnt) and Ben Poulter (Rag), all four surfers having missed the most recent New Zealand Pro Series event held at Whangamata.
Current New Zealand Pro Series ratings leader Bobby Hansen (Gis) will be willing to front up to the returning surfers after having won the most recent event. Hansen obliterated his opponents at the Billabong Pro at Whangamata and the challenge of these top ranked surfers returning will certainly raise the performance of Hansen.
Likewise, top ranked local surfers Tim O'Connor (Mnt), Larry Fisher (Rag), Chris Malone (Gis) and Keone Campbell (Tara) will all want to put in strong performances to retain their top six rankings.
Seventeen year old Whangamata surfer Ella Williams finds herself going into this weekend's event as the top ranked female surfer. Williams claimed her maiden victory at the last event of the series and a win this weekend would prove that she belongs at the top of New Zealand surfing. National Champion Thandi Durham - Tipene (Tara) will want to bounce back from her fourth placing at the last event while 2011 New Zealand Pro Series winner and three time defending event champion Jessica Santorik (Rag) will hunt out her first win of the year.
The youngsters in the Under 20 Men's will get a shake up with the return of Hicks, Dive and Poulter who will all be expected to pull in solid results come Sunday. The first event of the series saw a new group of surfers come to the fore with the likes of Sean Kettle (Tara), Dune Kennings and Elliot Paerata - Reid (Piha) all aged seventeen or younger making the final. The challenge to gain a finals berth will be a lot harder come this weekend.
Small waves are forecast for the weekend with a building south swell increasing on Sunday. Competition kicks off at 8:00am each morning with the venue for each day to be confirmed once swell forecasts are assessed.
Past event champions:
2006 - Zennor Wernham (Rag)
07/08 - Maz Quinn (Gis)
08/09 - Bobby Hansen (Gis)
09/10 - Billy Stairmand (Rag)
10/11 - Jay Quinn (Gis)
2006 - Paige Hareb (Tara)
07/08 - Daisy Thomas (Chch)
08/09 - Jessica Santorik (Rag)
09/10 - Jessica Santorik (Rag)
10/11 - Jessica Santorik (Rag)
Junior (U/18) Men
2006 - Richard Christie (Gis)
07/08 - Matt Hewitt (Mnt)
08/09 - Sean Peggs (Tairua)
09/10 - Paco Divers (Sandy Bay)
10/11 - Tane Wallis (Piha)
New Zealand Pro Series rankings after two of four events:
1, Bobby Hansen (Gis)
2, Larry Fisher (Rag)
3, Tim O'Connor (Mnt)
4, Matt Scorringe (Whmata)
5, Chris Malone (Gis)
6, Keone Campbell (Tara)
7, Leon Santorik (Rag)
8, Zen Wallis (Piha)
9, Dune Kennings (Whmata)
10, Ben Kennings (Whmata)
1, Ella Williams (Whmata)
2, Thandi Tipene (Tara)
3, Jessica Santorik (Rag)
4, Jayda Martin-Fitzharris (Gis)
5, Jasmine Smith (Gis)
Under 20 Men's
1, Sean Kettle (Tara)
2, Tane Wallis (Piha)
3, Dune Kennings (Whmata)
4, Adam Grimson (Gis)
5, Waretini Wano (Piha)
5, Levi Stewart (Waihi Bch)
Please see below for details of the final event on the New Zealand Pro Series:
Rip Curl Pro pres by Nature Valley - 16-18 March, Raglan
Entry into the events can be completed at Surfing New Zealand under events. Complete the entry process online or download entry forms and send them in.