Jonas Te Aho gives back to rangatahi

By Rahia Timutimu

Jonas Te Aho could have chosen life in a gang or surfing.  He chose the latter and wants to make sure young adults make the same choice. 

The Māori surfer also teaches surfing for free.

The beach is Jonas Te Aho's backyard, but it was by chance that the Te Aitanga a Hauiti descendant got into the sport.

“I started when i was thirteen.  I spent a lot of time just roaming the streets,” says Te Aho, “I ended up getting a surfboard and met a really great crew out Wainu, they took me under their wing, taught me how to surf, I got addicted to it and it pretty much changed my life.”

He's travelled the world in his 23 years of surfing.

“I’ve surfed in the States, just got back from the Islands, I spent a little time in Indonesia, the Pacific and Tahiti a few years ago, but I think we’ve got the goods in our backyard to be honest,” says Jonas.

Despite riding some big waves around the world you would never see him competing.

“I don't like the competition vibe, I just like expressing myself in the surf whenever I want, and I think you find that with a few surfers,” says Te Aho.

But he is all about helping rangatahi, remembering it only took one moment when he was young to steer his life on the right track.

“When i was growing up we went through hard times.  I could have gone to the gangs but I didn't, my friend did though and he's still in there.  I had an out and that was surfing and that saved my life.  We teach people all the time, my best ideas come out when I’m in the moana.”

Te Aho is a kaikāmura and kaiwhakatere at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, where he helps navigate people into roles in carpentry.