Paris Olympics: Shared pain of personal loss powers Kiwi surfers for Paris Games

The pain of personal loss will provide all the motivation needed for two Kiwi athletes named to represent New Zealand at this year's Olympic Games.  

Surfing duo Billy Stairmand and Saffi Vette will take on the giant waves in Tahiti, both hoping to secure a place on the podium.

Paris will be Stairmand's second time representing New Zealand at the Olympics, after competing at Tokyo 2020, but he'll think of two people in particular, when he's taking on the ocean.  

"My mum passed away a few years ago and actually my brother passed away two years ago," Stairmand told Newshub. "I'm always holding them in my hearts and I know they are looking after me." 

Stairmand has had a tough few years, but it's pushed him to try even harder.  

Saffi Vette.
Saffi Vette. Photo credit: Photosport

"Going through those struggles has kind of motivated me to do better... not only for myself, but also my family," he added. 

Dad Alex couldn't be prouder, choking back tears, as he spoke about his Olympian son.

"Not just for his sporting achievements, but he's just such an awesome kid." 

Selected alongside Stairmand is Gisborne born-and-bred surfer Vette, who'll make her Olympics debut at the Paris Games. 

"I can't believe I've done it," Vette, 22, told Newshub. "This is something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life." 

She's also endured personal grief in recent years - her dad passed away from cancer four years ago. 

"I don't think he ever had surfing in mind to be at the Olympics," added Vette. "It was just pure love for the sport."  

She believes both her dad and Billy's family will make themselves known in Tahiti.  

"Sometimes you think that they are sending you good waves to do well in and I'll keep believing that." 

Vette is determined to make the most of every wave she can at the famous Teahupoʻo break. 

"I'm not there to make up numbers. I'm there to snag a medal for New Zealand."