Stab Magazine | New Zealand’s Great Māori Hope

New Zealand’s Great Māori Hope

Kehu Butler’s giving the Kiwis a lot of reasons to cheer.

style // Aug 30, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

“I learned to surf from my dad and my grandfather,” said Kehu Butler. “They also taught me the ways of our people.” 

Kehu recently won the WSL Australian Pro Junior title. He’s the first Kiwi surfer to win the title since Maz Quinn back in ’96. He’s got a style like the love child of Zeke Lau and Gabe Medina. Born and raised in Tauranga, New Zealand, Māori blood pridefully courses through his veins.

Photo billy leepope2

Ke-who? Butler! Photo: Billy Lee-Pope

“I want to be able to represent my people, to give them another path. The Māori are some of the best rugby players in the world, I want to show them the opportunities that surfing can provide,” explained Kehu when Stab caught up with him. 

In 2001, Quinn was the first-ever Kiwi to compete on the world tour. A few years later, Richardo Christie became the first-ever Māori to go blow to blow with the world’s best. Now the future rides on Kehu’s shoulders. 

“I want to be a world champion,” he plainly stated. “My goal is to qualify for the world tour and win a world title…isn’t that the goal of every surfer on tour?”

“My favorite surfer is Gabriel Medina,” he continued. “He’s good in all conditions and I like the way he competes. He doesn’t back down.”

If Kehu has a little fire in his belly it’s understandable. The area he’s grown up in featured prominently in the New Zealand Wars during the 1860s in which British settlers battled the native Māori population. Presumably, Kehu’s ancestors were part of said battles. And he approaches contest surfing with a warrior’s mentality.

Image 1 2

His grandfather, Kehukehu Butler, who’s face is covered in traditional Māori ink and wears an eye-patch, strikes an imposing presence. He still rips at 70 years old. And last year, Kehu went head to head against his father in the Aotearoa Māori Surfing Titles, beating him in the final (for the second year in a row).

Kehu’s consistently built results and a reputation over the last few years. He’s stockpiled Pro Junior and Grom Search wins. He’s one of Quiksilver’s new Young Guns. He’s the first Kiwi surfer Red Bull’s ever sponsored. And when he won the Skull Candy Oz Grom Open Pro Junior earlier this year he busted out a traditional Māori haka on the beach. 

QS 2017 YoungGuns Heywood 5545

An honorary frontside punt. Photo: Haywood

“It’s an honor to represent my people. I’m not just surfing for myself, I’m surfing for them to,” he added. “We all win.”

Only 18 years old, Kehu has a lot of surfing ahead of him before he gets to the CT level, but he’s motivated, inspired and has that freakish x-factor that’s separating him from the pack. Keep an eye on this kid, he may arrive sooner rather than later.



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