Taj Burrow's Stab in the Dark (Arts) Shaper Reveal - Stab Mag

Taj Burrow’s Stab in the Dark (Arts) Shaper Reveal

Plus, an official premiere date!

Words by Stab
Tune by our friend, Walterwarm.

Stab in the Dark (Arts) with Taj Burrow is almost here. In fact, episode one of our four-part series drops next Thurs, Jan 21 (PST).

In 2020, we weren’t only putting individual shapers to the sword but placing a whole new type of technology on trial too.

Carbon wrapped and vacuum packed, the Dark Arts crew took control of the entire finishing process of each board, from glassing to sanding and all points in between. Our designers were asked to ship a shaped blank to the Dark Arts factory in San Diego, and for a couple of big names Aussies, the thought of a high-altitude warp or turbulence-induced buckle en route from Kingsford Smith to LAX was enough to see them pull the pin. 

Photo by Andrew Semark.

Poor Taj Burrow couldn’t name a dozen surfboard brands to begin with, and with our entire quiver finished in identical fashion, picking 13 shapers in a blind taste test was near on impossible. But, he tried his best, even naming DHD twice in our lineup…

Here’s the wrap sheet on this year’s lineup of suspects…  


French shaper Axel Laurentz has been mowing foam in the Basque country for over two decades, and while his crafts have long been found under the feet of many a Mundaka hellman or Brazilian title threat, he put his name on the global map when Mick Fanning anointed him second in the 2018 edition of Stab In The Dark


Growing up in his father’s shaping bay in Dana Point, Timmy Paterson might be the most underground shaper to ever claim a world championship, with Italo Ferreira securing last year’s crown atop a quiver of the Californian’s finest fibreglass, winning in the air on the Gold Coast and in the tubes of Portugal and Pipeline to take the title. Well rounded, much?


Firewire claim their guy Dan Mann is the best shaper you’ve never heard of, but with Kelly Slater choosing to ride the Californian’s boards out of all the shapers he hordes under his Slater Designs umbrella, we think that’s a stretch. Famed for his FRK model, what will the switch-foot surfer who never goes backhand do with the Dark Arts technology in his maiden Stab In The Dark outing?

Photo by Andrew Semark.


Shaped by a Brazilian living in America, could a Sharp Eye be the first surfboard to claim Japanese Olympic gold in 2021? There’s a strong chance if hometown favourite (don’t @ us!) Kanoa Igarashi has anything to do with it. Marcio Souvi’s shapes took Filipe Toledo and Kanoa’s games to the next level and they’re currently doing the same with Indonesia’s next big thing, Rio Waida… could a Stab In The Dark win be next?


Our next shaper needs no introduction. Matt Biolos has been wielding a planer since before you were born, and as well as Carissa Moore claiming crown number four atop a …Lost craft last year Matt also won the All Stars edition of Stab In The Dark. Biolos has been Taj Burrow’s craft worker of choice for the past decade, but did either of them know what was going on here? You can decide for yourself, but we think you’ll laugh.

SMTH Shapes

Graham Smith has been a shaping legend in South Africa since the ’80s but long struggled to make noise beyond the Rainbow Nation; even his own son Jordy was too expensive a proposition to keep equipped at title threat levels. When Jordy, of all people, gave G-Force a completely inadvertent and unexpected third place nod in Stab In The Dark in 2017, Big Bru decided maybe the time was right to team up with Pops and take on the world. SMTH Shapes was born, and is going from strength to strength.

Alongside picking up back-to-back world titles with John Florence in 2016 and 2017, Jon Pyzel also went Stab-to-Stab those same years much to the surprise of Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith respectively, who gave the Pyz the nod. We’ve seen John John flaring on Dark Arts-loaded Pyzels already, can the Californian-expat-turned-Hawaiian-shaper-to-the-stars convert that into another Stab In The Dark victory this time around? Stay tuned.


The crew at Chemistry pride themselves on their custom shapes above all else, making the Oceanside operation a worthy and exciting addition to this year’s Stab In The Dark lineup. With all round weapon Barron Mamiya the face of the franchise you know these boards work from two-feet to 20, now let’s see how the dark horse fares when paired with Dark Arts tech. 


The irrepressible Hayden Cox is a Stab In The Dark regular and even though Jordy quipped in 2017 he “didn’t think it was possible to bog two rails at once”, it didn’t stop him from ordering a couple of new boards a short time later. A year earlier Dane Reynolds was a fan, and we all know the damage that Craig Anderson, Dion Agius and more have done atop the sleds of Sydney’s slickest shaper this past decade.

Photo by Andrew Semark.


After its most profitable year in a decade and with the wheels turning on Channel Islands’ buyback from the Burton snowboard empire it has been part of for a dozen years, this year’s entry floated in from Anapaca Street, Santa Barbara on a cloud of resin dust and good vibes. CI are the Mercedes Benz of surfboards, high performing and highly sought after, with a suitably stacked trophy cabinet and honour board. Curren, Andersen, Slater, Reynolds, a dozen-and-a-half world titles and a 2018 Stab In The Dark win to boot. You know the deal.


Australian James Cheal is not only putting sleds under limbs the length of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, but he has a fair chunk of Indonesia covered too. With a diverse team that ranges from Adriano de Souza to Jay Davies and Balaram Stack ol’ Chilli must be doing something right in every kind of condition.


Blake Peters is a shaper on a mission, letting his curiosity guide his growth and success. A chance meeting with Graham “Jordy’s Dad” Smith led him to picking up a planer, all these years later he’s making boards in Australia, America, Japan and France, and they’re going under the feet of guys like Brendon Gibbens and Colin Moran. A regular in the Electric Acid Surfboard Test, let’s see what he cooks up with Dark Arts to play with.

Photo by Andrew Semark.


Luke Short is a New South Welshman currently putting crafts beneath the feet of Noa Deane, but over the years he’s shaped sleds for Julian Wilson, Matt Banting and occasionally… Taj Burrow. There aren’t too many who can claim master craftsman status, but LSD has well and truly earned his status at the top of the underground Aussie totem.


What the hell is Dark Arts anyway?

Without sounding too much like a Daft Punk song, Dark Arts is surfboard technology that claims to be lighter, better, faster, stronger. 

An extruded polystyrene stringerless blank is hand-crafted, then wrapped in carbon fibre, for optimum flex, weight, durability and buoyancy.

Unlike traditional fibreglass cloth carbon fibre is extremely reactive, and this spring translates to speed. 

Once wrapped the boards are vacuum sealed to thin the carbon and remove excess resin. 

Carbon fibre is strong beyond belief… see Kai Lenny’s quiver of carbon fibre Jaws and Nazare weapons for evidence, and Dark Arts is the lightest and strongest surfboard tech on the market.

According to its creator, Justin Ternes: “Dark Arts was created as a result of wanting to bring something uniquely different to surfing that I believed could make a difference in performance. Carbon gives that edge to the Dark Arts name and we’ve been having fun with the brand creative.”


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