Slip-parallel grooves (striations) on fault surfaces are considered a robust indicator of fault slip direction, yet their potential for recording aspects of earthquake rupture dynamics has received little attention. During the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake (South Island, New Zealand), >10 m of dextral strike-slip on the steeply dipping Kekerengu fault exhumed >200 m2 of fresh fault exposure (free faces) where it crossed bedrock canyons. Inscribed upon these surfaces, we observed individual striae up to 6 m long, all of which had formed during the earthquake. These were typically curved. Using simulations of spontaneous dynamic rupture on a vertical strike-slip fault, we reproduce the curved morphology of striae on the Kekerengu fault. Assuming strike-slip pre-stress, our models demonstrate that vertical tractions induced by slip in the so-called cohesive zone result in transient changes in slip direction. We show that slip-path convexity is sensitive to the direction of rupture propagation. To match the convexity of striae formed in 2016 requires the rupture to have propagated in a northeast direction, a prediction that matches the known rupture direction of the Kaikōura earthquake. Our study highlights the potential for fault striae to record aspects of rupture dynamics, including the rupture direction of paleo strike-slip earthquakes.

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