New art wave for surf bro

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Daniel Kereopa rides the waves – Aaron carves the boards.

Raglan-based artist Aaron Kereopa launches his colourful new exhibition in Queenstown – and reveals he wanted to be a professional surf champion, just like his famous brother Daniel.

Daniel, 31, is regarded as the face of New Zealand surfing after dominating the sport here in recent years.

But it was older bro Aaron who introduced him to the art of riding the big waves when he was just a kid.

Although his sibling has gone on to become an internationally known figure in the sport, the acclaimed artist has found the next best thing – creating spectacular works from surfboards.

“I tried for many years to become a full-time surfer,” says Kereopa. “But from the age of eight or nine, it was obvious that it was Daniel who had all the real talent.

“I’m very happy that I now make a living out of something connected to the sport too. Surfing is in the Kereopa blood.”

Aaron, 39, has always been Daniel’s No 1 fan – and encouraged him all the way.

“When he was a boy, I used to carry his board for him about 5km every day from our house to the beach at Manu Bay and we’d be out on the water from sun-up to sundown.

“For about five or six years I also took him to every event and competition I could before entrusting him to the people on the professional surfing circuit when he was about 16.”

Kereopa’s exhibition, at the Toi o Tahuna gallery in Church Street, is his third in Queenstown in as many years.

His stunning surfboard carvings and Maori designs are bought the world over – they sell for about $6000 apiece, he says.

Kereopa’s latest creations are inspired by thoughts of creatures from the deep that lurk below the waters when he’s out surfing, which he still does most days.

“For instance, a while back I was out paddle-boarding when I was aware I was being followed by two bronze whaler sharks.

“I just pretended to myself they were giant whitebait until they eventually went away.

“It’s those kind of experiences I try to expand on with my imagination and turn them into art.”

Kereopa’s exhibition runs until July 29.