An Authentic New Zealand Surf Short With Kehu Butler - Stab Mag
The Maori Blood Runs Deep In Kehu Butler

An Authentic New Zealand Surf Short With Kehu Butler

Featuring an inside look at some of Kehu Butler’s deepest traditions.

cinema // Dec 18, 2020
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

As the first settlers of New Zealand, the Maori people established a deep-rooted culture, emphasizing tradition, art, and apparently surfing. Te Kehukehu Mokoia Ngawhika Patara Butler, or as we prefer to call him, Kehu Butler, ranks highly amongst the warmer Island Nation’s most talented surfers.

Much like the sacred traditional tattoo on Butler’s neck, his surfing is unique and highly respected. I’m not much of a spiritual person, but I think it’s evident Kehu’s comfort at home has some relation to the ancestral Maori blood coursing through his veins. We gave him a ring to discuss his new film ‘TAI TIMU’, his heritage, and more.

Photo: Matt Dunbar/WSL

Stab: Hey Kehu, excuse our ignorance, but what does ‘Tai Timu’ mean?Kehu Butler: Tai Timu is the Maori word for “low tide”. So we thought, why not make that the title for the clip? Something unique to New Zealand.

It’s clear your heritage is very important to you. Can you tell me what it means to you to be Maori?
Being Maori to me is everything. It’s shaped me to be the person I am today. The culture has brought me up to understand a lot about life and respect. I’m very grateful to be Maori and to represent the culture on a world stage.

Have you been stuck in NZ throughout the whole pandemic? What’s that been like?
Yep, I’ve been stuck in freezing ass NZ throughout the whole pandemic ay [laughs]. Nah me and my mate Billy Lee-Pope have been filming a bunch for Quiksilver & Red Bull, chasing swells all around the North Island ever since the end of lockdown. It’s been sick having the time to be at home chasing winter swells and waves that we’d normally miss while competing on the QS.

So tell me, how do you guys just not have covid cases? Is the air really that clean down there?
[Laughs] Although the air is pretty fresh down these ways cuz, I think the only reason we don’t have any covid cases is because our Prime Minister chucked us straight into a four-week lockdown at the end of March, just to get rid of Covid straight away. No mucking around down here cuzzy.

Photo: Tim Hain

What’s your favorite NZ island and why?
My favorite Island in NZ is definitely the North Island . The South island is just way too fucking freezing in the winter. I’m not even keen to go surfing when I’m in the South Island. Heaps of seals chasing you in the water and changing into a frozen wetsuit in winter down there is not ideal. The North Island is so much warmer and has better waves. Better pies and better aunties.

Vax or anti-vax?
I don’t really mind ay, I’ll take the Vax . As long as that Vax doesn’t kill my ass a couple years down the track.  

Thoughts on Raglan Surf Report?
Raglan Surf Report is the equivalent to @theinspiredunemployed for NZ I reckon. [Luke Cederman] is just a funny bloke who actually fucking shreds! He’s by far the best freesurfer to come out of NZ—his Innersection part was out the gate for a Kiwi. But yeah, he’s a crack up specimen.

Favorite surfer from NZ?
My favorite surfer from NZ would have to be a bit of an underground surfer, the original Maori Prince, Morehu Roberts (in his prime). He has such an easy-on-the-eye style (kind of like Tom Curren), then he would throw down a huge carve or a big punt. Growing up he was definitely someone who I really admired. He’s an even better person out of the water as well. 

What are your plans for the year? Q chasing or broader ambitions?
My plans for next year are to move back to the Gold Coast, train, and get back into it. Then start doing the QS again and hopefully dodge covid while traveling.


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