Stab Magazine | A Prime Example Of Melding Business And Leisure

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A Prime Example Of Melding Business And Leisure

Taj Burrow, Jay Davies, and John Respondek combine business and leisure on a WA desert stint. 

full frame // Sep 19, 2018
Words by Jake Embrey
Reading Time: 6 minutes

‘Business trips’ are often nothing of the sort: there’s plenty of cans consumed, hardly ever any ‘work’ done, and at the end an attempted explanation to your boss about what the fuck you did the whole time.  

Truthfully, this array of photos aren’t depicting a ‘business trip’ at all; if they’re crafty enough I’m sure this trip could be written up as an ‘Honest Ale’ tax write off, but in reality it’s a bunch of surfers melding business and leisure to the finest extent. Taj Burrow, Jay Davies, Dino Adrian, and the Honest boys punched in northwards back in May while John ‘Spon’ Respondek “tagged along” – as he modestly put it. 

Boot full of beers, roof peppered with boards, and a forecast promising enough to warrant a ten hour drive up to the desert. There’s no reception there and the closest town is a two hour stint away, you’re far removed from it all and that’s honestly the best part. 

The trip was a few months ago now, and was the trip where Taj blew out his knee on a “two or three foot wave”, but aside from that slight downer, was the epitome of what a surf trip should be. 

“We drove a bunch of tins up there and essentially set up camp for ten days” Jay told Stab, “you’re off the grid up there – no phone reception and two hours to town – but it’s worth it.”


What Taj and Jay describe as ‘fun waves’ would rival the best most have ever seen let alone surfed.


John Respondek

“It’s around nine or ten hours drive from back home” Taj said, “It’s the first time I’ve taken the family up there and the first proper camping trip I’ve had up there for a while.

“We drove up a day before the other guys. I got a campervan for me and the girls because it can get pretty wild up there and I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to go down at first.”

Tombstones and other spots up in the north of West Aus are fickle at best, and to score them, you’ll need swell courtesy of a hefty storm. The Burrow family set up camp well before that storm hit, but Jay, Dino and Spon weren’t quite as well prepared. 

“Yeah, we copped a pretty wild dust storm on the first night” Jay said, “I’ve never really understood the need to take goggles up there for trips before that. People do it, but I’ve never thought it was necessary. I’ll probably take a pair up next time though because it was full on [laughs]”

“We were staying in this old shitty banged up caravan with myself, Jay, and Dino. It’s just this piece of shit that they leave up there for trips like this and is full of dust and rolled up carpet. We just rolled it out and turned it into a little desert home though.” Spon reminisced about the trip. “It’s good enough.”

A36I5668 1

Arguably no better place to crush a couple post-surf beers than here. Taj and Dino eyeing off an unmanned desert diamond.


John Respondek

“We got fun waves up there. Probably three or so good sessions, but it’s pretty fickle. [At Tombstones] I really only got two good ones and then a few others at another right hander” Taj recalled, “The swell is inconsistent there though and dies quickly. The photos probably make it look way better than what is actually was”

“We pretty much just surfed, and when there weren’t waves just went fishing or sunk tins.” Jay laughed, “It’s not like there’s a whole lot to do up there. You’re out in the middle of the desert but that’s sort of the best part. Just removed from it all.”

It’s hard to remove yourself from your all consuming phone in this inter and over-connected age. Whether you intend to or not, you likely spend a disproportionate amount of your waking life scrolling apps, flicking emails, and mindlessly staring into a veil of ones and zeroes. It’s awakening what a lack of reception does. 

“We went into town after a few days to go in and grab some supplies and hammer out a little work while we had reception.” Taj said, “As soon as you get reception though your phone starts lighting up – emails, texts, missed calls just streaming in. We were only there for a couple of hours and Becca and I were at each other’s throats as we drove back out of town arguing about all sorts of shit. Then once we were back out of reception in the desert there was this moment where we looked at each other and laughed.

“It’s just content overload on your phone and once we were out of there you couldn’t help but relax. It’s hard to recognise how much of an impact it makes.”


“We essentially just surfed, fished, and hung out. Not that you can complain about that”


John Respondek

A99Q4650 copy

Taj tucked under a couple before he was resigned to land for six months at this same spot.


John Respondek

Spon’s sentiment towards the device –free time was the same. As a photographer in 2018 it’s hard to escape the wrath of Instagram, with the only moments of clarity being wifi-less flights or in this case, reception-less surfs. 

“Just camping and being a grubby, dusty dude for ten days is a breath of fresh air” Spon told Stab, “I didn’t look at Instagram the whole time it’s such a relief.

And while Spon shot the images you see here, it wasn’t as if he was glued behind a viewfinder, bobbing in the channel for the trips entirety either.

“Unless it was actually on the cook I’d just surf. It’s not like being a hired photographer on a trip, if I wanted to surf I could surf. Then if you weren’t going to surf again, you’d be on the beers by around midday.

“Other than that we just went fishing a tonne. Me and Taj were clueless out there [laughs], but all the other boys are pretty into it and know what they’re doing. We still managed to catch a couple of tuna and cook up sashimi that night.”

The only real downer on the trip was when Taj blew his knee out, and of all the days to do it, the day before his birthday. “He pushed through though and we still had a blinder of a night” Jay said, “Mixed up a few cocktails in the blender, but it’s not like there’s much to do out in the desert in reality. You can drink as much as you like but once the suns down you’re sharing stories around the fire and carrying on until the early hours of the morning.”

“I can’t think of anything too wild, well at least anything that anyone would want on the record [laughs]” Spon said. 


Taj was adamant the girls loved the trip to the desert, but I have a feeling there’s an ulterior motive underlying his desire to return.


John Respondek

It wasn’t exactly a business, surf, or family trip; a meld of all three would be more exact. According to Taj the girls were stoked too and despite their modesty, the images suggest the waves were well worthy of the drive and dust-laden camp. 

Punching it across country or up the coast to the WA desert is far from feasible for the majority. Nevertheless, their trip serves us a stark reminder of how enjoyable a trip to somewhere less ventured can be. Ditch your phone, abandon your worries and hook into whatever’s offered. Maybe you won’t be graced with overhead tunnels, but excluding the hangover, you’ll be clearer than a day spent idling on your screen ever allows. 

Most of the boys might be lucky enough to surf for a living and run a passionate beer project on the side, but there’s no reason the rest of us can’t take annual leave (or a extended bout of sickies) for a glimpse of disconnected sanity.

Note: For those pining for the return of Taj, he’ll be back surfing soon enough. “The doctor initially said six to nine months, and it’s been three and a half since surgery now and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m sick of not being able to surf and will probably try and get out there in the next couple of months. We’ll see how it goes” 

And for those who still admire high quality imagery, you can head over to John Respondek’s site here – Taj and Dion photo books are currently 2 for 1!


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