Surf conditions reminiscent of home have helped Mount Maunganui surfer Kehu Butler, 16, to his best result in Australia.
Kehu took out his first pro junior event, winning the men's division in the Cronulla leg of the Subway Pro Junior Series at the weekend.
The powerful natural-footer made light work of the weak conditions, executing a variety of technically sound arcs and snaps. After claiming victory in the final, Kehu was greeted by family members who performed the haka in celebration of the win.
"I'm never going to forget this moment. Having my family on the beach doing the haka as I got carried up is something I'll remember forever," said Kehu.
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"We have small, tricky waves that are similar to this at home, so I've been training a lot in conditions similar to this.
My boards were dialled in really well and fortunately it all came together for me."
At the final round of the seven-event series, it was his first win, and the biggest of his surfing career.
"He had the Occy [Grom comp in Australia], that was last year's big win, but that was at under-16s - this is probably his biggest win at the moment," said his father Kahn.
"These kids go on to pro careers, pretty much, if they win these types of comps."
Kehu has reached the semifinals and quarters in previous rounds of the under-18 series.
"But this is the first one he's won, so he's pretty stoked," said Kahn.
"All day the commentators were talking him up on how fast and what a good surfer he was, and a lot of them haven't actually heard of him before and they were quite excited watching him surf.
"The first couple of heats he was really dominating the field and these are some of the kids who are Australia's best surfers."
Kehu managed to eliminate some of the surfers who were chasing the top four places in the series overall. The top four go through into the World Surf League pro junior series, where they come up against the other regional winners.
"If they can get to that, then that's really huge. Kehu might have got just outside that top four with this result, but for his first year and with two more years left to do it, it's pretty awesome," said Kahn.
Kehu won the final with a 11.60 total, beating Sandon Whittaker (Avoca, New South Wales) with 9.40. Whittaker nearly took the event, holding down the lead for a solid portion of the final, but he was pipped by Kehu who managed to find waves with better scoring potential.
Kehu said the win was his biggest to date. "I've been waiting to win one of these events for a long time now, so it's good to finally win one."