Cracking it in the pressure cooker that is the Australian surfing hotbed is no easy feat. Which makes 18-year-old Te Kehukehu Butler’s rise so impressive. In 2018 he was embroiled in a season-long battle with Callum Robson, of Evans Head, NSW, in the WSL Australasian/Oceania Junior Qualifying Series (JQS). At the final round of the series, the Hydralyte Sports Surf Series presented by Billabong and held in Cronulla, NSW, Kehu clinched the title.
With less than 100 points back to Callum, Kehu was crowned 2018 Australasian/Oceania WSL JQS champion.
Kehu’s JQS victory means that he is the first Kiwi to win the Australasian/Oceania WSL JQS rankings since Maz Quinn won it nearly 20 years ago.
“This is such a great feeling,” said Kehu, after the event. “I knew the ratings were tight between Callum and I, so whoever finished higher in this event would have won. Thankfully, I was able to get the win. Being the first New Zealander since Maz to win the Junior Series makes the victory so much sweeter. He has always been someone who I’ve looked up to, so to follow in his footsteps is an awesome feeling.”
“Being the first New Zealander since Maz to win the Junior Series makes the victory so much sweeter. He has always been someone who I’ve looked up to, so to follow in his footsteps is an awesome feeling.”
Originally from Mount Maunganui and now based mostly on the Gold Coast, Kehu’s fifth place at the Carve Pro held at Maroubra, Sydney, at the end of January puts him in 56th place on the Men’s 2019 WQS series.
Billy Lee-Pope caught up with Kehu to give us this insight into the Kiwi surf athlete we’ll be hearing a lot more from.