You can’t wipe the smile off Taj’s face, ‘specially if the waves are on the cook. (Respondek)

Why We Can’t Wipe The Smile Off Taj Burrow’s Face

Not even with a cricket bat.

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I met TB two years ago in West Oz through Jay Davies. I had no idea what they’d make of some Sunny Coast kid with a head like a toadstool, but we got on like a house on fire. We had a few sessions, a coupla beers and before I knew it one of my surfing heroes was me new best mate!

It’s funny, I honestly reckon Taj is the most frothed up he’s ever been to go surfing because retirement has fully opened up his time. His schedule is way more relaxed and he’s that charged up to chase waves. I guess after doing the tour for 20 odd years it must be pretty epic for him to run his own show. He’s been hanging ‘round my neck of the woods a fair bit this year, and his stoke levels are contagious for sure. Even when it’s tiny I’ve been getting calls at six in the morning saying, “C’mon mate, let’s find a shorey!” And I’m a 20 year old kid groaning to get out of bed like an old man, while Taj is already on the beach hunting rip bowls. It’s aspirational for sure. I hope I’ve still got that enthusiasm down the track. I’ve never met anyone so pumped on surfing.

The one session that really jumps out at me was only a few months back. We caught up while he and his fiancé Bec were visiting family on the East Coast. My girlfriend Kayla and I ended up hanging out with those two for the month, smack bang in the middle of a dry spell, haha! But right at the very end, two days before Taj was flying out, a big swell rolled through and Taj ended up pushing his flights back. He was supposed to leave for The States but there was no way that was happening when the waves were this cookin’. Taj grew up surfing the Box in WA and all those super gnarly right ledges. Soon as we pulled up this day, you knew he was stingin’. He loves it, old TB. He’s got this fearless approach but at the same time he’s very precise. You can see that insider knowledge take over as soon as he knifes into them. It was just as enjoyable for me to sit in the channel and watch Taj get spat out of a big tube as it was to give it a dig myself. From watching his videos as a grom to witnessing it live in the flesh is a very surreal experience. I’ve literally been watching his videos my entire life and now I get to see it with my own eyes. I’m still spun out by it!

It was a bit of a circus in the morning, there was a heap of crew on it, but we lucked into a really good window and scored some sick ones. I missed a ride on a jetski out there so I paddled, almost like a repeat of Bombie Rock, except this time I didn’t mash my bowl on the reef. I could see a guy drop in, stand in a massive pit and get blown out and I knew it was Taj straight away. I just lost my mind – kicking and screaming – I couldn’t get out there quick enough. The early session was super busy but the crowd thinned out as the tide dropped because it gets real shallow. We had a moment out there with three or four guys and some real ugly double ups. You can see how much water was draining off the reef, and it scared everyone off. So we had an epic little 45 minute window. Just us out there.

In that Trilogy movie I remember this classic quote from Taj. He said “I hate it how people see me as a small wave surfer,” because he’s charged his whole life, but he’s so insane in small waves, and I guess he was that far ahead of the game it was natural that people would identify him as that kind of surfer. But he is definitely a psycho.

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Harry Bryant