Stab Magazine | Five Unlikely Surfers Who Inspire Me

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Five Unlikely Surfers Who Inspire Me

With popcorn in hand, Taj Burrow reveals those who truly capture his attention. 

style // Jun 21, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

There are so many incredible surfers in 2018. 

Guys and gals from all over the globe are tagging the hell out of waves, landing crazy spins, flips, whatever. With the advent of Instagram, it’s become incredibly difficult to impress on talent alone. 

That’s why these days, you know a surfer is special when they manage to stand out despite all the noise.

I’m personally inspired but a long list of surfers, but for the sake of this piece I’m going to narrow it down to five. Five people who make me excited to surf, to fight, to live.

Let’s get started.  

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If there’s a type of wave in which Chippa does not excel, we certainly haven’t found it.


Woody Gooch

Chris “Chippa” Wilson

I think Chippa is the best aerialist in the world. He’s just so fucking skilled. He’s so technical and no one comes close to his innovation in the air. He doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is.

His cat-like reflexes are what you notice the most, especially when you surf with him. No matter what he throws himself into – the size of the ramp, the surface underneath, the grab – he always seems to land on his feet. It’s very rare to find guys with the spring-loaded setup… that ability to generate speed and pop from so very little – and he’s the leader in this class.  

Essentially he’s just an insanely talented surfer. You can see it in the way he adapts to riding other boards. The way he rides twin-fins, soft tops and that recent bodyboard is mind-blowing. Until you try that stuff, you don’t realise how fucking difficult it is. Getting out of the water on something finless is so much harder than you think. Especially something that short. I’ve tried to stand up on a bodyboard and my back foot misses the tail every time I get up.

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If Mason isn’t having fun, none of us are.


Quinn Matthews

Mason Ho

Mason Ho is one of those guys who’s hard not to like. No matter what the conditions or what board he’s on, Mason makes surfing fun and that’s a great thing. He’s high on surfing and it shows.

There are guys who try to push a vibe that they’re positive or they’re this or they’re that and it can be contrived. With Mason, you know it’s authentic. It’s real.

What sets him apart is his nostalgic nod with a contemporary twist. He combines all of the new tricks with that Ho family genetics and 70’s style. He respects that time but mixes it with his own innovative approach.   

I haven’t surfed with this guy enough. We both ride Mayhems and we see each other in the water a bit, but we haven’t done a trip together. We’ve been talking about it so hopefully we can make it happen sometime soon.

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Mick ain’t no one trick pony.


Red Bull content pool

Mick Fanning

My relationship with Mick on tour was cordial at best. I guess we’d consider ourselves “friends” but there wasn’t any real depth to it. Not even close. We both got along, but we both wanted to beat each other competitively.

And if you really want to break it down: I could never beat Mick. I can only think of a handful of times I beat him out of the 30 or times we must have surfed against each other. Probably more.

But I remember all of the losses. He had it over me.

It was so hard to surf against him. He had his foolproof competitive strategy. We called him the cyborg because it was like he was programmed. He put his headphones on and goes out there absolutely fucking destroys everyone and it’s hard to surf against a robot like that.  

We had our little jabs. When he beat me in the final at Bells held at Winki, I let him have it a little. I said, “You might’ve won the event, but you almost won the title for the worst sunnies on the beach.” After the final it’s a bit more fun and games, but then you’re back at the next event.  

The way Mick has handled catastrophic events in his life was always beyond comprehension. We all know the shit he had to deal with, but to lose two brothers and endure and rise above is exceptional. I’m impressed by him as human being and an athlete but as a good bloke rating, he’s one of the best. I only learned this after I announced my retirement. Our relationship changed immediately.

We were no longer at each other’s throats competitively. It was the same with a lot of my rivals. Joel Parkinson as well. As soon as I relaxed and actually just hung out with Mick as a mate, it was so much different. It was so much better. We actually got along great. It’s funny that after all these years, we can talk like normal mates would. It’s real. It’s really cool to reflect how many years we’ve done on the tour and reminisce about it without any pressure, just at ease.

Ryan Burch

The man who expanded our minds in 2015 and has broken our wallets since (Burch’s custom shapes do not come cheap!)


Matt Smith

Ryan Burch

I’d never heard of Ryan Burch and I still don’t know much about him, other than he provided one of the most entertaining surf sections I’ve seen in a very long time. I’m talking about the section of he, Nate Tyler, and Ozzie Wright in the Volcom film Psychic Migrations.

FF to 7:06 for the part Taj is speaking of.


I used to be a guy who enjoyed mostly conventional surfing in a web clip, but this section made surfing look so fun. It was one of  the most entertaining sections I’ve ever seen. The self-shaped twin fin he was riding looked perfectly suited to those waves and you could just tell he was having the time of his life. That’s what attracts me to someone’s surfing, is someone who looks like they’re having so much fun. It’s so pleasing to the eye.

He had so much wall, so much room to move and he was just flying, doing beautiful carves and combos and sliding effortlessly into the tube. I immediately wanted to replicate that section on my frontside, at a similar right point, on a similar board. I wanted to do exactly what he was doing but in the mirror.


Do not eat a fucking strawberry around this guy if it’s not organic.


Max Reyes

Dustin Barca

This is my number one inspired pick by far. I just think the guy is insane. I love what he stands for.

This is a former world tour surfer who stands up for what he believes in. The movement he’s creating with everything that’s happening in Hawaii… it’s really cool the level he’s taken his passion for keeping his islands the way they are. I’m a huge fan of what he does.

We all see it. People getting grumpy or pissed off on Facebook or Instagram. It easy to talk about opposing things and to get angry but Barca stands up, gets out there and puts his name to it. Standing up and taking a side like that takes serious balls. And he’s standing up to powerful people – billion dollar companies and governments – all in the name of protecting the island he’s from. I think he’s fucking awesome.

Leadership is not easy. He’s done the research and has educated himself to understand the system. And now he’s using his platform to stand up for everyone while rallying their strength as a group. It’s so great to see someone put their foot down and stand up.


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