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Top surfer returns

Mount Maunganuiā€™s Kehu Butler surfing in the 2020 Maori titles. Photos: Ronny Rolfe, Surfing NZ.

Tauranga surfer Kehu Butler is back competing in New Zealand waters, claiming the Men’s Division of the 2020 Aotearoa Maori Titles held on Labour Weekend.

The event, in Northland’s Ahipara and The Bluff, had participants representing 21 Iwi in divisions ranging from under 14s to over 45s.

Kehu had a year of overseas competitions lined up, following four world-level competitions earlier this year in Australia, Morrocco and China where he came ninth – his highest placing at an international competition this year.

Surfing New Zealand’s Ben Kennings says the silver lining of this is that everyone will get have a surf with Butler and see him compete in home waters.

This is Butler’s third Maori Title after taking out the event in 2016 and 2017. He earned 16.3 out of a possible 20 points for the win.

“This event means a lot to me,” says Kehu.

“To stand up here in front of a number of Aotearoa surfing legends that my Dad has told me stories about over the years is special.” Those surfers include the likes of national champions Motu Mataa and Brent Hutchieson, who were in attendance.

Kehu’s Dad, Khan Butler, placed third behind his son and Waihi Beach’s Levi Stewart in the Open Men’s Division with 12.2 points, and second in the Over 35 Men’s with 11.1 points.

Despite Kehu and Khan’s efforts, their Iwi Ngai Te Rangi could only manage a runner-up finish with defending champions, Te Atiawa, victorious for the fifth year in a row.

Kehu is a part of New Zealand’s top surfing squad who are hoping to qualify for Tokyo 2020, which will be held in July 2021.

As well as Kehu, other Kiwi Olympic hopefuls include Mount Maunganui’s Raiha Ensor, Raglan’s Billy Stairmand and Whangamata’s Ella Williams.

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