Back in the Game

New Zealand Surfing - - Stepping Up - -DK

In 2007 Raglan surfer Daniel Kere­opa reached the sum­mit of his com­pet­i­tive surf­ing ca­reer. Since the young age of 13, DK as he be­came af­fec­tion­ately known, had been touted as a fu­ture champ. He went on to win a tonne of ju­nior ti­tles, rep­re­sented his coun­try at mul­ti­ple world ti­tles and on the World Tour, won the NZ Cir­cuit a stag­ger­ing six times, and de­vel­oped into our premier big wave surfer, hav­ing been taken un­der the wing of leg­endary big wave hell­man Ross Clarke-Jones in 2001, and taught the art of the grow­ing dis­ci­pline of tow surf­ing. How­ever DK al­ways had the de­sire to ex­pand his skills and in 2002 he won the last big wave pad­dle event held on our shores, the Quik­sil­ver Rex Von Huben Memo­rial Big Wave Chal­lenge. Pad­dle surf­ing into gi­ant waves did not stop there and over the fol­low­ing years he chased down and braved the frigid wa­ters of the South Is­land, push­ing big wave surf­ing to new heights. In 2007 DK kicked off the year fi­nally win­ning the na­tional ti­tle that had eluded him for so long, tak­ing the triple and also win­ning the se­nior and long­board Na­tional Ti­tle, an­other dis­ci­pline that he had fo­cused on in be­tween short board­ing. Later that year DK was crowned the Aus­tralasian Big Wave Pad­dle In Cham­pion win­ning the Oak­ley Big Wave Awards for his mas­sive pad­dle in wave at Pa­p­a­towai. That win right there capped off a stel­lar year for the man. It was right then and there DK de­cided he would go out on top and re­tire from com­pet­i­tive short board surf­ing and be­gan to fo­cus on other ar­eas where he wanted to take his surf­ing. This didn’t wash with many spon­sors who only saw be­ing a surfer as one who rode short boards. DK be­gan to pad­dle Waka Ama, con­tin­ued to long­board, win­ning the Long­board Tour, and then branched out into the lat­est facet of surf­ing, Stand Up Pad­dle board­ing, of which he has gone onto be­come the lead­ing ex­po­nent. In be­tween all this DK carved his own wooden alaia boards, hy­dro-foiled, and dove into kite board­ing. Many thought DK the surfer had faded away, and while he still pulls out his trusty short boards when the time is right, when the waves are hol­low at his lo­cal or he sim­ply feels like pick­ing through his quiver of equip­ment and rid­ing what he feels is him for that day, then per­haps they are right, DK the short boarder has faded away, but DK our great­est ‘Water­man’ ever, has in amongst all of this been born. Re­cently DK had a week to re­mem­ber - he tow surfed and SUP’ed a 15 foot ses­sion at an outer reef, got bar­relled on his short board the next day at his lo­cal, then two days later showed up at the boat ramp, bound for a wave that was thought only tow sur­fa­ble. When he came walk­ing down the boat ramp with his 9’2” un­der his arm, there were a few chuck­les from the boys, but an hour later, it was DK chuck­ling as he rode out of one of the big­gest waves rid­den by pad­dle power on our shores, and once again re­de­fined what was thought pos­si­ble to those that had come be­fore him. Now he has his sights set on pad­dling a much larger wave, he has come full circle and we watch and wait to see what the man has for us next. We caught up with DK to see what makes him tick these days and for his take on the ses­sion: “I have al­ways wanted to pad­dle into that wave so Ben Poul­ter and I packed up the truck and I put in my old 9ft gun along with the tow boards and jet­ski. Af­ter an all night sleep in the car, Ben and I met up with other tow-teams and our lo­cal guide/tow surfer Piripi took us through the safety plan. Piripi asked if I was go­ing to pad­dle to­day? I didn’t an­swer straight away.... I saw ex­cite­ment in his eyes, so I said, ‘Yeah Im go­ing to go have a play!’ I towed Ben into a few bombs be­fore we swapped and I grabbed my gun and took the lonely pad­dle out to the peak! It had been about two years since I pad­dled into any wave with sig­nif­i­cant power and vol­ume to it, so I was a lit­tle ner­vous. My goal was to get the feel­ing of the reef, un­der­stand the cur­rents and the shape of the wave as it sucks up. I made it out to the peak and sat inside the tow-teams. As I re­laxed I started to sing a song to my­self! Piripi and his tow part­ner also waited in the chan­nel for me to catch my first wave. Be­fore I knew it I was stroking into my first wave, it was a smaller wave but I made sure I pad­dled my arse off! I re­mem­ber drop­ping down a long avalanche type face, hear­ing the boys hoot­ing at me made me smile, so I kept the flow go­ing and am­ply pad­dled back to the peak to catch more. There is no other feel­ing in surf­ing than pad­dling in to a big wave, putting your arse on the line. I was se­cretly ex­cited that I wanted some­one else to come and hang out with me! As al­ways I missed the big­gest waves of the day which guts me, but I am more de­ter­mined than ever to pad­dle into some bombs in fu­ture swells!”

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