Te Ahi Kaa contributor Takiri Butler talks about fitness practiced within a Māori community context.
How is physical health nurtured at a whānau level? What does it take to become successful in your chosen sport or discipline without costly gym memberships or programmes?
For the Butler family it is evident that it starts in the home, health conscious parents help, perhaps even living near the beach does too, or a mountain that can be seen from most angles in Tauranga Moana, deemed as the perfect training ground.
On the eve of a family trip to the Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championships in California, USA, Takiri Butler sat down next to the many trophies and awards accumulated by her nephew Kehu Butler, to get an idea of why surfing is important to him, and how his father, Takiri's brother, Khan maintains that level of humility in a whirlwind world of sponsor obligations, international travel and training.
The whanau are pretty big in the water, even if it wasn't on top of the water it was under the water getting kai. As soon as he jumped into the water, it was oh well there's another generation.
Kehu Butler is Ngaiterangi, Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Awa, his hapu affiliations are Ngāti Hangarau and Patuwai. Kehu has been surfing since he was 5 years old, following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather & uncles and aunties. Kehu's Uncle, Paul Bennett was the first Māori to win a national surfing title back in the 70s. His father Khan Butler and Uncle, Matt Bennett were both members of the NZ Men’s Surfing Team.
Khan would push Kehu off on the waves until he was old enough to start paddling and catching them himself.
Once he hit the age of 10, he was winning competitions locally on his home break in Mount Maunganui.
Kehu attended Te Kura o Matapihi and was brought up in a Māori speaking household, his grandfather Kehukehu is a native speaker.
While most kids spend their spare time playing video games or throwing around a rugby ball with their mates, Kehu took to surfing. Even when there were no waves, the Butler family would pull out the skate boards and rehearse their moves on land, a practice which still remains today. Takiri talks to Kehu about his training regime, and the many perks of hard work.
My daily routine would be to wait for dad to get me up and then he'll check the surf and if its up we'll go surfing and dad will just critique on what I need to do. We'll keep going and then we'll come in and try and eat healthy food. We'll go back out surfing, come back have dinner and rest up.
Kehu's grandfather, Kehukehu Senior is a former professional surfer and in his heyday his picture appeared up on Billboards on the Auckland Motorway.
When it comes to attending Kehu's surfing events and competitions, Kehukehu can be heard yelling instructions to his moko from the beach in Te Reo Māori, telling him where to sit and wait for the waves or how many minutes are left in the heat.
When he can afford to, he prefers to accompany Kehu and Khan around the world, his facial moko does attract some attention but he says those who are 'game enough' enough to inquire, he is happy to talk about it.
I think it does help just having the family support there.....this travelling around and having cultural exchange with all the indigenous cultures around, it’s very good to promote where we come from and who we are as a people.
Tiana Bennett was born and bred in the heart of Arataki (Mount Maunganui). As a teenager, it was nothing for Tiana to run around and up the Mount before breakfast. However as the years went by, her arthritis and diabetes impacted her movement, small steps became a struggle.
In 2013, Tiana realised that she missed her maunga and the connection she felt when climbing him. It had been nearly thirteen years since she had been to the top.
It was then that Tiana set herself some goals. First was to reach the top of the stone steps, then to the gate just past that. As the weeks and the walks progressed, Tiana made her way slowly up Mauao with the help of her whanau, gradually getting further and further up the 500 odd steps. She then set herself a date where she was going to climb all the way to the top in one go.
Members of Tiana's family carried up 20kg weighted vests, 40kg barbells, boxing bags etc to try and replicate and understand the difficulty that Tiana faces when she takes on such a physical task.
The kaupapa of Hakafit began when Jack Thatcher decided to walk up Mauao (Mount Maunganui) on Boxing Day last year. IA few of his whanau decided to join him, and when he reached the summit he decided to do it again the next day. The idea gained traction when he put on a wero (challenge) do to the walk for thirty consecutive days.
In the lead up to Te Matatini, the two local kapahaka groups in Tauranga decided to have a friendly challenge to see how many summits each group could do in that time. Ngāti Ranginui kapahaka group took out the competition.
Jack Thatcher explains to Takiri Butler the concept of the challenge, and why Mauao is considered an ideal place to practise physical fitness given the connection the mountain has with local Māori, he shares with the traditional purākau (story) of Mauao.