Regional | Surfing

Ngāti Te Whiti surfer rides to junior world championships

A proud young Taranaki man Kalani Louis (Ngāti Te Whiti) is one of the team of 12 surfers in New Zealand's under-18 and under-16 men's and women's divisions, who will compete at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships, which will bring together more than 340 surfers from 44 countries.

Louis is known for his 'goofy' surfing style: "That means I have my right foot forward on my board so, if I’m on a wave that’s breaking from left to the right, then I’ll be facing that with my chest to the wave.

"There are different styles - it’s like cricket, you can either be right-handed or left-handed," he says.

Taranaki-born and raised Louis has now been propelled into the elite surfing world, and is looking forward to competing against the best surfers on the planet.

This will be his second time representing Aotearoa at this event, as he made the trip to the Junior World Championships in El Salvador in 2022.

"I'm excited to surf against the best surfers in the world really, and have the opportunity to try and prove to myself that I can do it and also to other people in New Zealand.

'Definitely harder in New Zealand'

"It’s a pretty small country, so it’s good to be able to showcase what New Zealand has got to offer in terms of talent," he says.

To pursue his passion, Louis left school last year to begin an apprenticeship as an electrician, which helps fund his surfing endeavours.

Reflecting on the challenges faced by surfers in New Zealand, he says it's a numbers issue.

"It's definitely harder in New Zealand just in terms of shared numbers of surfers. If you're in the US, there might be a couple of million surfers, whereas here there are only 100,000.

"It's just money really, there's not as much money in the industry here," he says.

Aiming for professional tour

Louis's passion for surfing dates back to his early childhood. He recalls his first surfing memory at the age of five.

Looking ahead to the future, Louis aspires to compete in the qualifying series to secure a spot on the professional tour.

"All of the comps that you need to do are in Australia. I’ll probably move over there in three years and give that a crack," he says.

Team New Zealand is gearing up for the upcoming competition by assembling 12 surfers.

The team will consist of three members in each division, representing both male and female surfers.

The location for the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships 2023 is yet to be confirmed but rumours are suggesting that the event may be held in Brazil.