The Tour WarriorTaj Burrow

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22, Taj Burrow, Bielmann

by Sarge

Taj Burrow is the future. His style and finesse set precedents for the surfing youth of the world. His repertoire is filled with huge airs, uncanny barrel riding, and superior gouging. TransWorld SURF enlisted Australian writer/photographer extraordinaire, Sarge, to delve into the mind of this brash young shred-star.

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So Taj, you’re looking pretty gnarly in that Mad Max getup. Are you “Mad,” or are you “Max”?

Um, neither really, but I like the movies. It was good fun dressing up as a freaky character.

Mel Gibson’s character in the movie was that of a full-on warrior. Do you see yourself as a warrior?

Well, I guess you have to be somewhat of a warrior to compete with all the best surfers in the world. To progress through the WQS schedule, you’d pretty much have to be considered a warrior. You have to attack it like an animal, and once you’re on the WCT, it’s even more difficult. So yep, to be a successful competitive surfer, you have to be a warrior.

Your whole approach to this season has been strong but silent. What’s been going on?

Well, winning two contests was definitely unbelievable. I won my first ‘CT, the Coke Classic at Manly, Australia, and then I was lucky enough to win another one in Brazil. Other than that, I’ve blown some really easy heats, and felt like I haven’t had that good of a year. Of course, I’m 100-percent stoked with being runner-up, but I’m looking forward to doing better.

At the halfway mark of this season, you said you were having a shocking season, but you never obviously stopped looking at the possible world title before you.

It was pretty unbelievable to be in contention all year despite feeling like I hadn’t performed my best at all. It can really go your way, or it can go against you. I feel that I don’t have to surf my best to get though a heat at the moment. I just have to pick the right waves, and ride them to a certain extent, to get the right score.

Do you think you’re thinking too much and not letting the surfing do the talking?

Yeah, I guess my mind does go pretty crazy when I have to get through certain heats and stuff. It can do my head in. Working with my coach, Mitch Thorson, has definitely helped me a lot. He just keeps me calm, focused, and on track.

Considering who you are, and what you’re achieving, many people would be surprised that you get so nervous.

I do¿I just get really nervous. I don’t know why. I just want to

win so bad.

Have you always been like that, wanting to win so bad? Has it been with you since you were a grommet?

Yeah, I guess I’m pretty competitive, always have been, especially in the water. I’m actually less nervous if I have someone like Kelly, or someone who’s unbelievably talented and is expected to win. I don’t mind those seeds. I get more nervous when I have someone a bit lower on the ratings, I just get rattled.

Have you missed Kelly’s presence on tour this year?

I’d rather have him there on tour. Obviously everyone looks to him¿what he’s doing, new maneuvers, and how he’s surfing. I think his absence took a bit of spark away from the tour. I guess it just leaves it up to rest of us to create our own excitement.

Do you have a preference toward down-the-line rail-to-rail surfing, or do you have more fun putting an accent on tricks?

I like it all; I really, really like it all! I like to do everything from carves, airs, and tube riding. The main thing is I like style¿I like to look good even when I am going straight. That’s what I mainly concentrate on, though it’s difficult in competition surfing.

When surfing at home, are you there to have fun or do you still get competitive?

A lot of the time I’m just looking to get barreled or to do airs, and try new stuff¿anhing. People are always trying crazy maneuvers, though; I get super hyped to do crazy stuff. The times I’ve tried, I kept injuring myself, though, so I can’t be as adventurous as I’d like.

Have you been working on any new moves in particular?

There are a couple of tricky things that I’ve been thinking about and have been working on, but I was pretty upset when I saw Kelly pull it off in Taylor Steele’s new video. Nathan Webster and I have been talking about this maneuver for a while. He was talking forehand and I was trying the backhand version.

Then Kelly, the freak, really pissed me off. I actually saw him pull the forehand version off quite a while ago. I was trying to concentrate on the backhand one, and then just yesterday I saw Taylor Steele’s new release¿which is probably the best video I’ve ever seen in my life, and Kelly did the maneuver backhand. I was so jealous.

So what’s the maneuver?

Well, it’s kind of like a carving backhand double 360, like a

backhand carving 360 into a reverse. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s quite achievable from what Kelly showed. He made it look easy, but I didn’t get as close as he did. It looked like good fun.

Was it a blessing to grow up in such an incredible place like Western Australia?

Definitely! What can I say? It’s a treat! West Oz is so quiet compared to every destination we visit on tour. It’s really laid-back and has good waves, mainly reef breaks accessible by four-wheel- drive only. It’s fun and it’s pretty much the perfect zone for me to relax in¿the complete opposite of the tour.

Does it ever occur to you that having American parents, you could have been born in Iowa, or wherever?

I think about that all the time. I think about what it would be

like growing up in San Diego, or somewhere in So Cal. My parents are from there, they grew up in Pacific Beach, San Diego. It would be very bizarre. I like visiting America; I don’t know how I could live there. It’s just so radically different from where I live. I’m sure I would enjoy it just as much if I grew up there.

When did your oldies move to Australia?

They visited Australia in 1972, moved to Perth in ’74, and then

down south to the Margaret River area a couple of years later.

So you got the best side of the deal?

Yeah, I’m pretty happy with their decision

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If you had to live in Cali, where would you live?

San Diego or somewhere around there. I don’t mind it actually, I’ve had some really fun waves there, like Blacks and beachbreaks¿ so fun to try new maneuvers. The only beachbreak I have at home is kinda like Waimea shorebreak. Every time I go to Cal, I freak out on how much fun you can have. I was even fortunate enough to surf Rincon when I was younger, and that was unbelievable. I really like the variety of waves there.

So besides discovering new waves, what’s the most enjoyable part of traveling and being on tour?

Well, pretty much everywhere we go it’s like the biggest event of the year in that place, and that means there’re lots of girls around, which is always a treat.

From what we see, that’s where you seem to really get competitive¿hunting women! Can we assume you haven’t had a steady chick?

Um, almost, nah¿but I’m working on it. I met a girl on the Gold

Coast recently, and she was super cool. I was only with her for two days, but she’s really cool. We’ll see what happens. I’m looking forward to spending more time with her.

Having a sex drive akin to that of a rabbit, do you really think you might be capable of limiting yourself to one woman?

The only way I could pull it off would be to travel with her. I

couldn’t be away from a girlfriend all year and handle seeing all the other girls all over the world. I would do it if I had to, but I don’t think I’d want to.

What country is your preferred hunting ground?

I heard Argentina has unbelievable women; I haven’t been there myself. I really like France, Spain, and Brazil. I like the Latin look¿dark hair and green eyes.

What’s the first thing that attracts you to a woman?

Eyes, for sure. I like eyes¿good-looking eyes..

Do you see many live bands?

Nope. I listen to heaps of music, but rarely get to see it live.

What do you listen to?

I like the Beastie Boys, and being in Hawai’i, I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop. Live-music-wise, I had a strange experience trying to go out in Perth recently. People kept staring at me and pointing at me. I was too freaked out, totally uncomfortable. I had a shocker, couldn’t enjoy myself, and had to leave.

Yeah, fame can suck. But there’s another side to it, obviously. I’ve seen some unbelievable scenes over the years of girls chasing you. Is it a head trip getting what girls you want because of who you are?

Yeah. It’s kind of scary, really. A lot of girls get attracted to you because you’re a pro surfer or whatever, but I’ve grown to realize that they’re not really the cool ones. It’s weird, my friends at home think I’m so lucky, and I am, but it’s really weird having groupies hunting you down.

It sucks. It’s nothing special, because they’re really not after you. I met a girl recently who didn’t know a thing about surfing and didn’t know a thing about me. We had fun hanging out together. I thought that was a real treat because she wasn’t a groupie laughs.

What are you gonna love the most when you get home, besides running away from the highway patrol with your new Mad Max mobile?

I’m gonna surf, eat, and sleep¿as I always do. Yeah, I’m going to drive, drive, drive. I’ve just got my driver’s license back after losing it for three months, but I don’t know how long I’ll keep it. When I get home, my dad’s going to collect me from the airport in my brand-new Holden Commodore wagon. It’s a 5.7l V8 with a six-speed manual box. On a new license, I can’t get booked for anything for twelve months. I’m gonna be in big trouble, I’m just gonna have to cruise. I’m going to enjoy the pick up and try not to speed. There’re a few stretches of road my friends and I have a little thing on. I just can’t wait! I love it!

Now we see the real reason why Sherman shot you in Mad Max garb¿the V8 barreling, through the bush, not the desert.

I suppose it’s pretty entertaining. I never really thought about it. I just like having a good car that’s fast and powerful with a really good stereo in it, that’s all I dig.

Do you prefer straight hits or a bit of gravity through corners?

I like corners, a little bit of tail drift. I think I should do a

driving course before I kill myself. There’re lots of trees where I live.

Speaking of speed and adrenaline, how’d you go at Teahupoo? It seemed to be everyone’s favorite location this year.

I got a thirty-third, and didn’t know whether to be happy, sad, or anything, because I got the best barrels of my life. I’m really looking forward to going back there and staying with Hira and his family. Tahiti is just ridiculously good. I like pretty much going everywhere, though. I like going to the Gold Coast in Australia. I really like surfing point breaks.

Since you were raised in West Australia, home of plenty of big waves, most would assume you’d be at ease in whatever size you’re dealt.

Not at all, I shit myself. Dead-set shit myself all the time, but I

think that’s good. I like shitting myself and then getting a bomb that’s scary. I was really looking forward to Pipe this year, more than anything. I just wanted to get barreled.

Well, youe world. I would do it if I had to, but I don’t think I’d want to.

What country is your preferred hunting ground?

I heard Argentina has unbelievable women; I haven’t been there myself. I really like France, Spain, and Brazil. I like the Latin look¿dark hair and green eyes.

What’s the first thing that attracts you to a woman?

Eyes, for sure. I like eyes¿good-looking eyes..

Do you see many live bands?

Nope. I listen to heaps of music, but rarely get to see it live.

What do you listen to?

I like the Beastie Boys, and being in Hawai’i, I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop. Live-music-wise, I had a strange experience trying to go out in Perth recently. People kept staring at me and pointing at me. I was too freaked out, totally uncomfortable. I had a shocker, couldn’t enjoy myself, and had to leave.

Yeah, fame can suck. But there’s another side to it, obviously. I’ve seen some unbelievable scenes over the years of girls chasing you. Is it a head trip getting what girls you want because of who you are?

Yeah. It’s kind of scary, really. A lot of girls get attracted to you because you’re a pro surfer or whatever, but I’ve grown to realize that they’re not really the cool ones. It’s weird, my friends at home think I’m so lucky, and I am, but it’s really weird having groupies hunting you down.

It sucks. It’s nothing special, because they’re really not after you. I met a girl recently who didn’t know a thing about surfing and didn’t know a thing about me. We had fun hanging out together. I thought that was a real treat because she wasn’t a groupie laughs.

What are you gonna love the most when you get home, besides running away from the highway patrol with your new Mad Max mobile?

I’m gonna surf, eat, and sleep¿as I always do. Yeah, I’m going to drive, drive, drive. I’ve just got my driver’s license back after losing it for three months, but I don’t know how long I’ll keep it. When I get home, my dad’s going to collect me from the airport in my brand-new Holden Commodore wagon. It’s a 5.7l V8 with a six-speed manual box. On a new license, I can’t get booked for anything for twelve months. I’m gonna be in big trouble, I’m just gonna have to cruise. I’m going to enjoy the pick up and try not to speed. There’re a few stretches of road my friends and I have a little thing on. I just can’t wait! I love it!

Now we see the real reason why Sherman shot you in Mad Max garb¿the V8 barreling, through the bush, not the desert.

I suppose it’s pretty entertaining. I never really thought about it. I just like having a good car that’s fast and powerful with a really good stereo in it, that’s all I dig.

Do you prefer straight hits or a bit of gravity through corners?

I like corners, a little bit of tail drift. I think I should do a

driving course before I kill myself. There’re lots of trees where I live.

Speaking of speed and adrenaline, how’d you go at Teahupoo? It seemed to be everyone’s favorite location this year.

I got a thirty-third, and didn’t know whether to be happy, sad, or anything, because I got the best barrels of my life. I’m really looking forward to going back there and staying with Hira and his family. Tahiti is just ridiculously good. I like pretty much going everywhere, though. I like going to the Gold Coast in Australia. I really like surfing point breaks.

Since you were raised in West Australia, home of plenty of big waves, most would assume you’d be at ease in whatever size you’re dealt.

Not at all, I shit myself. Dead-set shit myself all the time, but I

think that’s good. I like shitting myself and then getting a bomb that’s scary. I was really looking forward to Pipe this year, more than anything. I just wanted to get barreled.

Well, your hideous backdoor bouncing in the first round at

Pipeline certainly made that hunger obvious. How did that thrashing look from the inside? What happened?

I just remember Kalani and I paddling to the peak. It didn’t

look that big until I swung for it. It was already throwing over me as I was bottom-turning. Everything looked great. It was bigger than I thought, and I was just looking down the line. Everything was perfect, thinking I was going to get a huge score if I came out.

I’m not sure what happened then, but I think the whitewater grabbed my board and sort of speared it straight. I fell on my face on the wall of the wave and went over backwards. I hit the bottom so hard, it was like a car crash; it was that intense. I thought I’d broken my back. I just went numb and buckled. I couldn’t believe it. Then

I got washed in. I was just spinning out when I got to the beach. I took a few steps, but then had to lay down. I just couldn’t do it.

My back was killing me, and there were lifeguards all around me asking me if I could feel my legs and stuff. I just kept

blacking out as I was getting carried up the beach, then in the

ambulance, and then in the hospital. It was freaking me out, because there’re guys shoving needles into me and all sorts of things. Eventually, I was X-rayed and the doctors said I had no broken bones, which I was unbelievably stoked with.

Do you think people underestimate the risks and commitment you guys undertake in dangerous conditions?

Yeah. Pipeline is an especially high-risk event. If you’re going

to hesitate just one little bit, it’s not even worth doing it. You

have to go for it. What happened to me was pretty scary, but I want to get straight back out there so I’m not intimidated by the place. I’ll be shitting, but I’ve just got to go right straight away to overcome my fear.

Well, thank god you survived that! Next year you can only go one step better on the ratings. Is that an obvious plan for next season, the world title?

Yep, moving up one spot would be a treat. It’s a big job, everyone wants the title. All I can do is put a 100-percent effort into it. I’ll be fit and focused.

Well, good luck, mad warrior!

Thanks, mate.

your hideous backdoor bouncing in the first round at

Pipeline certainly made that hunger obvious. How did that thrashing look from the inside? What happened?

I just remember Kalani and I paddling to the peak. It didn’t

look that big until I swung for it. It was already throwing over me as I was bottom-turning. Everything looked great. It was bigger than I thought, and I was just looking down the line. Everything was perfect, thinking I was going to get a huge score if I came out.

I’m not sure what happened then, but I think the whitewater grabbed my board and sort of speared it straight. I fell on my face on the wall of the wave and went over backwards. I hit the bottom so hard, it was like a car crash; it was that intense. I thought I’d broken my back. I just went numb and buckled. I couldn’t believe it. Then

I got washed in. I was just spinning out when I got to the beach. I took a few steps, but then had to lay down. I just couldn’t do it.

My back was killing me, and there were lifeguards all around me asking me if I could feel my legs and stuff. I just kept

blacking out as I was getting carried up the beach, then in the

ambulance, and then in the hospital. It was freaking me out, because there’re guys shoving needles into me and all sorts of things. Eventually, I was X-rayed and the doctors said I had no broken bones, which I was unbelievably stoked with.

Do you think people underestimate the risks and commitment you guys undertake in dangerous conditions?

Yeah. Pipeline is an especially high-risk event. If you’re going

to hesitate just one little bit, it’s not even worth doing it. You

have to go for it. What happened to me was pretty scary, but II want to get straight back out there so I’m not intimidated by the place. I’ll be shitting, but I’ve just got to go right straight away to overcome my fear.

Well, thank god you survived that! Next year you can only go one step better on the ratings. Is that an obvious plan for next season, the world title?

Yep, moving up one spot would be a treat. It’s a big job, everyone wants the title. All I can do is put a 100-percent effort into it. I’ll be fit and focused.

Well, good luck, mad warrior!

Thanks, mate.