Kehu Butler has come up clutch in the final two events of the World Surf League Oceania junior qualifying series to finish the season at the head of the pack.
Winning the penultimate event of the year at Lennox Head in New South Wales last month, the Mt Maunganui surfer took to the water in Cronulla trailing Australian Callum Robson at the top of the leaderboard by 100 points.
Heading into the final event of the season, Butler knew what he had to do to, and with both surfers making it to the final in Cronulla, it turned into a one-heat shootout.
"It was definitely going through my mind, just trying to stay ahead of Callum," Butler said.
The Kiwi took a patient approach to the final, not committing to anything that didn't offer him scoring potential. Of the five waves her caught in the heat, Butler didn't post a score lower than 5.20.
While he worked all five of his waves for all they were worth, his first two waves of the heat - a 6.50 and 5.65 - remained his best.
While Butler's 12.15 heat total in the final wasn't quite enough for him to claim the event win, which went to Australian Caleb Tancred, it was enough for him to finish in second place - one spot ahead of Robson.
Robson took a different approach to Butler, opting for a quantity over quality approach. The Australian got on 10 waves in the final but was only able to post three scores higher than a four - keeping a 6.25 and a 4.35.
As a result, Butler finished his final season of eligibility for the junior circuit with 3340 points, ahead of Robson who had 3265.
"I was a bit nervous in the final," Butler admitted. "But I just took a bit of a breather and just kept it together enough.
"He fell off a bit which gave me a bit of confidence, and I just tried to make most of my waves. Which ended up working."
Finishing the year at the top of the leaderboard, Butler qualified to challenge for the World Junior Championships in early 2019. The top four surfers in each of the five regions (Oceania, North America, Africa, Europe, Hawaii/Tahiti Nui) qualify for a chance to be named Junior World Champion in January early in 2019.
However, the Kiwi won't have to wait until then for his next competition as he was set to turn his attention to the men's qualifying series.
Butler was set to contest some of the smaller events on the men's qualifying series in the hope of collecting enough points for him to qualify for some of the bigger contests next year.
He'll also be part of the New Zealand team heading to the International Surfing Association World Games in Japan in September.