Taj Burrow Ages Backwards!

Warm water laps white sand, where sun fades and the stars rise. In the shallows, a group of baby reef sharks perform their evening ritual, chasing the baitfish. Teebs Burrow, Ceejay Hobgood, Rosco Williams, Mob Machado and their gals are here to watch the feeding – with me as ninth wheel. We’ve had an epic day at Sultans – four feet plus – pouring onto the pristine atoll fringe. Everyone’s zapped, except Taj who’s revved up like a speedboat. “Look at those wedges!” He says now, pointing at the ankle high shories with full conviction. It’s a classic case of grom froth, and fair enough… this is the Maldives and Teebs has just won 3k in prizemoney! But we’ll get to that later because now the crew are heading to Ceejay’s water bungalow. We walk the boardwalk mile to this honeymooners retreat suspended on stilts high above the ocean. It’s been gifted to Ceejay and his girl Courtney by the Four Seasons Hotel for a couple of nights and they are totally chuffed! The room invites open sea. The infinity pool sparkles. Fruit bats fly through the night air. Fish glide below. We bounce around the wharf like kids. Ceejay says “it doesn’t get any better this.” Which is cool, because a certain crummy oracle owes him one.

5 hours earlier was a different story. It’s the twin fin division of the Four Seasons Champions Trophy and Ceejay’s on the ropes. Local wild card Ismail Miglal is jumping over sections like Olympic hurdles. That’s the word for his effort – Olympic – and it’s sick to see because the bloke friggin’ rips on his 5’6’’ twinny – shaped by Terry Fitzgerald, no less. His dream run ends at the semis but stoke levels stay high. “Making a heat at this event is like a dream for me,” he’d later say. “I never thought it would happen. It is really surreal surfing against my heroes and to beat a World Champion is amazing, I got really lucky. We are all so stoked the waves turned on today, it was pumping out there. I’m so honoured to represent the Maldives.”

As for Benjamin Burrow – retirement can wait because right now he’s ageing backwards inside the pit, and even claims it with a teenie bop hop. The fountain of youth has delivered just in time for the Teebs v Rosco Williams semi. Later Ross will say the jersey sparked his nerves, but you wouldn’t know it from his opening drainer. Or the monumental drop wallet that rivals Kimbo’s room service tab at 8.8 points. Cheque please, indeed! On the 5’10 Aipa, a 17.36 heat total drops for the commentator, turned super coach, turned school principal… because he just pop quizzed Teebs, leaving him to chase a 8.70 in the dying minutes. A set looms, and Taj chomps down the bowl like Weetbix. Spoonfuls later the wave curdles to boat wake. Taj milks it to the island, and dumps the fins get the score. He’s off to the final with a 18.10 total. Post semis, Rosco insists “the fact that I had a lead in that heat at all was cool as Taj is ripping so hard. I’ve only surfed that twin fin a couple of times so it was nice to feel it out. You really have to surf with your rail on a twin fin otherwise you just slide out, so it’s a major learning curve, something that makes this event super cool. It was a really good battle that heat, and that’s what you want.” The twinny finals berth puts the Teebs in prime position for graduation day at the grand finale.

The Teebs v Mob Machado showdown is off the hook! The Mob out curled him in the singley semis yesterday, and Taj clearly has a bone to pick with the swami of style, who remains the man to beat at the event, for good reason. The Mob flows on his self shaped 5’5’’ Midus twin, rock and rolling the lip to post a cool 7.4 high score and a 14.80 heat total. But Teebee-geebees goes bananas, unloading his fins on the peelers. The clincher is a launch over the technicolour seabed, leaving Rob to chase a 9.7, to no avail. Moments later, the Mob is climbing aboard the Azakara to chug a beer with the judges, and let it mellow. So it is written, the stars aligned on the day of the gemini in Taj’s favour, as he brings home a 16.67 heat total.

Back on The Explorer, you’d expect Teebs’ to sprout his old bleached bowl cut as he groms-out on the perfect conditions he scored today, saying “I couldn’t believe how good the waves were, I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be that good. We were pretty spoiled. Everyone was so fired up. My heat with Ross was so sick, just a real see-saw then the final with Rob was all time, I’m so warn out now!” Of said final Teebs admits “surfing in a final with Rob on a ‘twinnie’ is a pretty tough task. He is so good on these different boards and is surfing so well right now, it’s like he is still a teenager, it was super intense and I’m stoked to get one back on him. I haven’t surfed this board since last year but I knew if I got a good one on it, it’d go well I loved it. It’s just so sick to be back here, the level of luxury is amazing!”

However, it’s the swami of style – Mob Machado – who remains ahead for overall victory this year having made two finals so far and pocketing another 1k in treasure. Of the day he says, “when we pulled up this morning we were freaking out. The waves were so good today, everyone was stoked,” says Rob. “After surfing here last year I had a good idea of the twin fin I wanted to shape and I loved how it went, this wave offers a lot of different sections so you need a versatile board. The waves were non-stop all day; it was amazing and a real pleasant surprise.” Stay tuned for the thruster division of the 2017 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy tomorrow and the crowning of the island’s big kahuna!

Hugh Wyllie