This Ju­nior Cham­pion and proud Maori, is ready to be­come a WQS war­rior.

Tracks - - Regulars - By Luke Kennedy

In 2018 Kehu But­ler be­came only the sec­ond New Zealan­der to win an Aus­tralasian Ju­nior ti­tle, af­ter Maz Quinn back in 1996. The ver­sa­tile nat­u­ral footer has a com­mand­ing pres­ence in and out of the wa­ter; per­haps a prod­uct of his early train­ing in Mau Rakau, a tra­di­tional Maori mar­tial art. How­ever, de­spite his ap­par­ent self-con­fi­dence and suc­cess at a ju­nior level, Kehu is well aware only a hand­ful of Kiwi surfers have made an im­pact at surf­ing’s high­est level and sug­gests he is pre­pared to work twice as hard as any­one to bust down the WCT door.

Where did you grow up in NZ?

I grew up in a place called Mount Maun­ganui (the Mount) where the waves are pretty flat for most of the year. Even though we have in­con­sis­tent waves, the Mount is a surfy town where you know ev­ery­one. My favourite surf spot is Matakana Is­land, it’s epic when it’s on. Per­fect A- frame beauty bar­rels ... heaven!

Is it harder be­ing from New Zealand where fewer peo­ple have ac­tu­ally gone on to crack the elite level?

Yep – I feel you have to work and surf twice as hard to build a rep­u­ta­tion within the surf­ing in­dus­try. My full name is Te Ke­huKehu Mokoia Ngawhika But­ler ... pretty long name but I feel priv­i­leged to be named af­ter my grand­fa­ther (Koro). Of course, I don’t see it as Maori cul­ture but who I am ... ev­ery­day liv­ing for me. Both my par­ents are Maori. I at­tended to­tal im­mer­sion Maori school­ing un­til high school, so I can speak Maori pretty flu­ently. When I was younger I trained in Mau Rakau, this is a tra­di­tional Maori mar­tial art with weapons. It was pretty full on and we were trained hard – no room for weak­ness. My fam­ily love singing Maori Wa­iata (songs) be­ing with the whanau (fam­ily). My Koro has a full face tat moko and a tra­di­tional Maori puhoro (from your knees to back tat­too – yep his bum in­cluded) I have a few but don’t think I’m brave enough to get one on my face.

Any friends who are elite rugby play­ers?

Yeah a few of the boys and fam­ily – Car­los Price, Pari Pari Parkinson and Codie Tay­lor. I’m in­volved as a Red Bull am­bas­sador in an All Blacks elite train­ing pro­gram where they groom fu­ture All Blacks ... hope­fully I get to take a few surf­ing

You spend a lot of time on the Gold Coast. Is that to gain a com­pet­i­tive edge?

It was mainly for con­di­tion­ing and fit­ness train­ing with Brodie Ledge­wood (he’s a ledge – no pun in­tended haha) and to work with my shaper, Wayne Lowen. Also helped surf­ing around the best surfers ev­ery­day.

Does ev­ery ses­sion al­most feel like a com­pe­ti­tion?

Nah. Most ses­sions I try to have fun but work on my weak­nesses as well. But when I surf with my dad it’s def­i­nitely a comp, haha.

How do you de­velop an act that will get you on the WCT and al­low you to thrive once you get there? Do you have a strat­egy?

I have been for­tu­nate enough to have strong sup­port around me from an early age. I have had guid­ance through ev­ery stage of surf­ing till now. I think, the peo­ple you sur­round your­self with can help with reach­ing the WCT and stay­ing there. The thing about the act of be­ing on the WCT, it’s very fluid, it is chang­ing ev­ery event, ev­ery month, ev­ery week, ev­ery day is a new les­son wait­ing to be taught. I need to make sure I am watch­ing and tak­ing in the changes as they hap­pen and try to pre­dict what’s next. It’s so dy­namic what Gabby, Ju­lian and Filipe are do­ing right now.

Do you think the surf­ing that gets you to the WCT is a lot dif­fer­ent to the surf­ing you have to do when you get there?

Yes, be­cause on the WCT your tech­nique has to be per­fect. You can’t do QS snaps on the WCT ... well not if you want to last, ha.

Is it chal­leng­ing to be ma­ture enough to think like a pro­fes­sional at a young age while also mak­ing time to en­joy your­self?

Yes it is chal­leng­ing, but I like it, I want to be a good pro­fes­sional surfer. Keep­ing a good healthy bal­ance of work and per­sonal time is my aim.

Are you ready for a WQS con­quest?

Yeah – I’m train­ing hard in prepa­ra­tion for 2019 when I start the QS grind.

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