Six-time New Zealand surfing champ Billy Stairmand gives us an insight into growing up on one of the world’s longest lefts.
You can surf all over the world, you can score dream sessions at even dreamier waves, but nowhere will shape you quite like your local. It’s the place you come to know better than any other, that you love and hate and learn from constantly, and it leaves an imprint on the salty side of your soul that can’t be erased. In this series, Tracks talks to a number of prominent surfers about their relationships with the waves that made them the shredders they are.
In this instalment, New Zealand ripper Billy Stairmand reflects on a lifetime of surfing Raglan.
Tracks: Growing up, what made Raglan such a special place for you?
Billy: Raglan is one of the most beautiful places in the world in my eyes. It has an amazing supportive community, all the people are friendly and caring, the waves are always fun. It’s just home for me. Waking up everyday in Raglan is a dream.
Describe the setup for those who don’t know it.
It’s the most amazing setup, there’s four left-hand point breaks. The first is Manu Bay, it’s the most accessible for anyone who visits Raglan. Then Boneyards is around the corner. Then Whale Bay is a beautiful spot with houses right on the point looking over the wave. Then Indicators and Outsides is where all the locals go to get away from the crowds at Manu Bay. All the waves have their own pros and cons, but all in all it’s an amazing setup and I’m fortunate to call it home.
Here's Luke Cederman sampling some Raglan gems
Tell me about her moods.
Her moods don't change too much. It's usually southwest winds with southwest swell as it’s the rugged west coast of New Zealand, so that's the primary swell and wind. But occasionally it barrels with the right winds.
How’s the wave helped shape your surfing?
Raglan has been the best place in the world to grow up for my surfing. It’s shaped my backhand into what it is now. I think in surfing it’s harder to get a good backside then it is frontside. So being a natural-footer and going left everyday as a grommet has made me have a good backhand. Raglan has taught me how to read the wave really well, how to surf big and small.
What about the local vibe growing up, what was that like?
The local vibe has been pretty good for me. My dad taught me how to surf so I knew all the older guys growing up but would still get dropped in on as a grom (laughs). It’s getting more and more crowded every year so there’s a bit more regulating going on now which is good as it’s pretty dangerous having people out there not knowing what they’re doing. But there are a few points so you can try and surf the not so crowded ones.
Billy shredding at home.
Each break has its own hazards and dangers. What are you watching out for at Raglan?
Manu Bay has a pretty gnarly jump rock. I’ve seen some pretty crazy stuff happen on that rock! Cut open heads, people slipping off and getting rolled over the rocks, just heaps of carnage.
Growing up at Raglan, who were the biggest influences on your surfing out there?
There were a lot of amazing surfers. I was influenced by Daniel Kereopa, Morehu Roberts, Emerson Tucker, and a few more of the local boys. I just loved surfing with them because it would push my surfing to want to rip as hard as them (laughs).
Waves change over time, whether it’s through changes to the way the waves themselves break or to the amount of people that surf them or for any other number of reasons. What changes have you noticed at Raglan during the time you’ve been surfing it?
There haven't been many changes, probably the most obvious one would be the crowds. Raglan in general is getting busier and bigger so that means the waves are getting more people on them. The wave itself hasn’t changed much as it’s a rock-bottom point.
Best ever session out there?
I’ve had so many good sessions out there. The waves are so fun. I guess it would have to be four-to-five-foot light southwest low-tide Manu. Fun crumbly sections and good down-the-line sandbar. Can't get any better.
Really crowded howling northerly. That's the worst!