Raglan professional surfer Billy Stairmand has notched up a second place in a surf contest that will go down in history books as the world’s first stadium surfing event.
The Red Bull Unleashed competition was held at the wave garden at Surf Snowdonia in North Wales this month. Hawaiian Albee Layer beat Billy 3-1 in the final in front of a 2000-strong audience in the purpose-built viewing stadium by the lagoon.
It was a unique location and a unique competition concept, whereby two surfers went head-to-head in a best-of-five waves contest.
Surfing NZ spokesperson Ben Kennings says wave gardens used to be popular in the 1980s but then fell out of favour. The one at Snowdonia was the first commercial wave garden and was designed in Spain.
“These guys reckon they’ve got better technology to make better waves,” Ben says.
The wave garden makes for a controlled surfing environment where each wave is the same – about 1.5 to 2 metres high.
“The wave suits him [Billy] because being in a wave pool it’s not that big,” Ben says. “He’s so small he has an advantage over bigger guys.”
The second placing is “massive” for Billy, with lots of publicity around the event boosting the Raglan surfer’s profile and Billy proving himself against some very good surfers.
Billy is currently placed at 33 on the World Surf League men’s qualifying series, dropping eight places after a bad result at his last event in Portugal.
Ben says there are four qualifying events left on Billy’s calendar for this year and “he needs four big results”.
Olaf Pignataro/Red Bull Content Pool Photos