Stab Magazine | The Boards That Changed Taj Burrow’s Life
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The Boards That Changed Taj Burrow’s Life

On letting Kelly Slater’s toes go numb, and the few boards out of thousands worth keeping. 

hardware // Jun 20, 2018
Words by Taj Burrow
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Boards just disappear.

I wish I knew where some of them are, but I’ve got no idea. It feels weird thinking about how many I’ve gone through. I’m sure everyone else on tour feels the same. But, I’ve held onto a few sentimental ones. Like, I still have the board I won on at Pipe and J-Bay. 

Throughout the years there have been more shit boards than good ones. I’ve always thought about how hard it must be for a shaper to have one of the top surfers in the world bring back his board and say, Well, this sucks. It must be heartbreaking, but that’s how brutal guys at the elite level are, they have to be honest and come back to their shaper like, No, this thing fucking sucks. Change this, change that. I’m not feeling this.

Not to say there haven’t been some absolutely magical boards. And, when you get that magic board, you have to go back the shaper and tell them how good it is. They deserve way more credit than what they get. 

They slave away, then get beat down by opinion. I’ve always felt it was really important to let my shapers know which boards exceeded expectations. 

I’ve had a lot of surfboards, but here are a few stories about the ones I couldn’t forget. 

BF 7

Maurice Cole in the Bay.

Photography

Harry Triglone

Maurice Cole

Maurice Cole was making my boards when I first hit the tour. I won my first World Tour event ever on one of his boards—the Coke Classic at Manly Beach. In the final I beat Kalani Robb, the board was a 5’10” and we called it Blue Max because of the blue rails. 

That whole experience of winning the Coke Classic was the coolest thing. All the veterans we growling at me, they fucking hated me. And I was just this scared little grom. But I made it through all these heats, and ended up in the final and won.

I remember I got chaired up the beach by a couple of mates—Jake Paterson and Nathan Webster—and that board, it was the pinnacle of my boards in that stage of my career.

Maurice was living in West Australia at the time, down in Margaret River. He looked me up and took me on as a rider. Actually, I took him on as a manager as well as a shaper, which may not have been the best decision.

Maurice is an extreme character, he’s unique, but such a lovable guy and such a good shaper. He’s got so many good stories and we had a lot of good times over the years. 

He made a surf movie that had Brendan Margieson and Pancho Sullivan and Noah Johnson as well called “Teddy Bears Picnic”. We towed into all these fucking crazy waves and went on some wild trips. Those were some of the best years of my life. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/embed/E7DiD8cdggs

Nev Hyman / Firewire

When I won J-Bay in 2007 it was on the first Firewire Nev Hyman had ever shaped me. I was riding Webbers then and they were trying to win me over. In the final at Pipeline in 2009, I was also riding that same board. It was a 6’1 pintail, step up thing. 

That first board Nev made me, that was a fucking gem. 

https://www.youtube.com/embed/fPZLE3mJ-Kg

At J-Bay, I was in the first semi-final heat and Kelly was in the second one. After I’d won my heat, I went straight to my room, threw my UGG Boots on and just got so warm. Kelly won his heat and stayed out in the water, waiting for me. So, I just took my time. I remember thinking, Oh, I don’t mind he gets a little bit colder or if his toes go a little bit numb. I’ll just let him sit it. After a while, Kelly started throwing his hands up, like, Where the fuck is he?

By the time I’d very slowly made my way down I was feeling so warm and confident. To be fair though, I learned that type of tactic from him…

That same year I beat Andy Irons riding a Firewire at Bells, it wasn’t that first board though.

mayhem clean

Matt “Mayhem” Biolos

I switched from Firewire to Mayhem in 2012. Matt had made me this one 5’9 at the time, and I was still riding for Firewire. I remember having to tell Nev and the boys about it. I just said, Mate, Matt made me this board and I’m loving it. I’m probably going to ride it in the contest.

That was one of those awkward conversations, I remember Nev looking devastated but he was nice about it. He gave me the green light and said, Mate, do what you have to do. I understand. I had been riding Firewires for three years, and I loved how fresh the Mayhem felt. 

That 5’9 turned over a new leaf for surfing for me. I felt so confident on it. I beat Adriano de Souza in the final at Snapper riding it.

Matt still has that board, it’s hanging on the wall in his shaping bay. 

My whole career, I’ve been pretty much riding the same board—5’9½”x 18⅜” x 2⅜”, 24 ½ litres. I’ve just had them pumped out, looking for a magic one. And now, I’m completely sick of that particular surfboard, because I’ve ridden it my whole life.

Recently, I’ve been changing them up, riding all sorts of boards and harassing Mayhem as much as I can. I got to keep him busy, it’s not like he has 10 surfers on tour or anything… 

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