Northland is set to host Aotearoa’s top Maori surfers this weekend including a return to competition for the country’s rising international star Kehu Butler (Ngai Te Rangi).
The Aotearoa Maori Surfing Titles is being held at Ahipara with the two-day event commencing on Saturday. The two-time champion, Kehu Butler, last competed in New Zealand in 2018 when he won the event for a second straight year defeating his father Khan who will also be in attendance this weekend.
Butler spends most of his year competing overseas but 2020 has seen him spend more time than usual at home with all international competition cancelled this year. The silver lining is that everyone will get have a surf with Butler and see him compete in home waters.
The lure of good Northland waves has attracted a large field of surfers across the eleven divisions being contested, all manuhiri looking to make the most of the long weekend and northern manaakitanga.
Current event champions Chris Malone (Mahaki) and Zhana Hutchieson (Te Atiawa) will return to defend their titles after wins in 2019 when the event was held in Taranaki. They are joined by traditional Maori surfing strongholds of Whaingaroa, Taranaki and Tauranga Moana.
It will be the first time many participants have competed since COVID-19 halted play in March. Surfers such as Levi Stewart (Ngati Awa), Kora Cooper (Ngai Tai), Jayden Willoughby (Ngapuhi) and Brie Bennett (Ngati Hine) have spent nine months on the side lines.
Northland surfers will be a force this weekend filling multiple divisions. They will be led by Kauwhata Kauwhata (Ngapuhi) in the junior divisions as well as the likes of longboarder Isaac Johnston (Ngapuhi), Jacob Buckle (Ngapuhi) and their lone defending champion Indi-Lee Ruddell (Ngapuhi).
A total of 21 Iwi will be represented at the event all working toward the Iwi of Origin title currently held by Te Atiawa.
It is the first time the event has been held in Northland in its 25 year history.
The Maori Titles has a unique feel to it with a mix of top New Zealand surfers as well as many who focus their attention on Labour Weekend as the only time they pull on a coloured jersey in competition.
Divisions range from Under 14 Boys and Girls through to Over 45 Men plus longboarding and standup paddleboarding. Families and friends attend the event as a celebration of surfing with the Friday evening powhiri setting the kaupapa for the long weekend.
The event takes place on Saturday and Sunday of Labour Weekend (24 – 25 October). On Friday evening, the powhiri will be held at Roma Marae where manuhiri are welcome to stay for the duration of the event. With the long journey north, participants are also welcome to stay at Whakapara Marae just north of Whangarei on Thursday night to break up the travel.
A schedule of events and location for each day will be confirmed at the powhiri on Friday night.
Please see below for defending champions from the 2019 Aotearoa Maori Titles.
Open Men’s Division – Chris Malone (Mahaki)
Open Women’s Division – Zhana Hutchieson (Te Atiawa)
Under 18 Boys Division – Kora Cooper (Ngai Tai)
Under 18 Girls Division – Indi-Lee Ruddell (Te Atiawa)
Under 16 Boys Division – Josef Jungwirth (Ngai Te Rangi)
Under 14 Boys Division – Navryn Malone (Mahaki)
Over 35 Men’s Division – Manu Schafer (Kahungunu)
Over 45 Men’s Division – Motu Mataa (Tara)
Longboard Division – Jason Matthews (Te Atiawa)
Stand Up Paddleboard Division – Jamie Andrews (Te Atiawa)
For more information on the 2020 Aotearoa Maori Surfing Titles, please contact Ben Kennings on 021 2278732 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
High resolution images will be available to media upon request. Images will be distributed free of charge.
The 2020 Aotearoa Maori Surfing Titles would not be possible without support from Oxford Sports Trust, Pub Charity, Far North District Council, Te Runanga a Iwi of Ngapuhi, Te Tuhua ki Aotearoa Charitable Trust, Aio Solutions Limited, Maori Flavoured Limited, Clements Contractors Limited.
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Author: Ben Kennings