Stab Magazine | How To Win Friends And Influence People (Without A World Title)
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How To Win Friends And Influence People (Without A World Title)

Taj Burrow’s two sides to the sun. 

style // Jun 26, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Every pro surfer dreams of a World Title.

Some are haunted by it, taunted, humiliated, left with their tail between their legs, beaten.

But that ain’t Taj.

For all his accomplishments, the full-clip forever eluded him. However, not winning the World Title as so many thought he would never kept Taj from enjoying, thoroughly, his time on Tour. And that lightheartedness, that happy-go-lucky approach, left indelible marks on his tourmates over the near two decades Burrow spent on tour.

Stab: It feels like you were a guy who was able to shirk any of the baggage and pressure of, like, “Oh, I need to win a World Title” or whatever, and really demonstrated how good of a life being a pro surfer on the World Tour could be – in a way that someone like Dane couldn’t. Where Dane could’ve just cruised and taken whatever came at him, not worried about the results, and people would have been fine with it, loved him regardless, etc., the pressure and expectations—that got to Dane.

It seemed like there were times where you put pressure on yourself, sure, but it was a lot easier for you to enjoy surfing on tour for what it was in the meantime.

Taj: I feel like you’re spot on. I kind of do feel like I just cruised through—and enjoyed it!

I definitely had moments where I would feel incredible amounts of pressure. I was always trying to work out what worked best for me, competitively.

Sometimes I would have a freesurf before my heats, and sometimes I wouldn’t. Sometimes I would try and take a casual approach and not be, I don’t know, so serious.

Mick Fanning, for example, he is one guy I looked to. We referred to him as the cyborg in the later years of his career, where he was just such a fucking weapon.

Mick would put his headphones on, and would just have that fucking daze. He’d just have that… that… that look in his eyes. Nothing would faze him. Nothing did faze him.

I tried to take on that approach, too. I’d put my headphones on and just try to psyche up. But it didn’t really click for me. You just got to be that particular person, where that kind of approach gels with you.

For me, I don’t know. I tried all of those different approaches. The one thing I found consistent, was I surf my best when I was having fun. Just enjoying myself.

I just try to enjoy every moment that I was lucky enough to live being on tour. Having the best time I could at every location, enjoying my surfing, and trying to have fun.

02 02

You don’t become one of surfing’s most adored solemnly.

When you look back, do you feel like your best results came when you started taking it easy and enjoying it?

I think so, yeah.

Life on the road’s obviously the most amazing thing ever, but you go through highs and lows. You obviously have peaks, and you have slumps where you might not feel be feeling happy or confident, you might feel a bit rundown. There’s so many variables and it’s almost impossible to have them consistent throughout the whole year.

I have had times, everyone does, where just everything clicks. You feel good, you feel confident. You love your boards. You’re just happy about where you are in life and then the rest just falls into place.

The events that I won, those elements were all aligned, and everything felt great.

That’s one of those things, with guys that are really, really good at competing, they’re really good at just keeping that consistency. Everything in their life just comfortable and consistent and just everything is just right.

That’s something Kelly Slater’s said, how he’s been able to find a place, whether it’s a house that he stays at or family, in each place where he’s super comfortable, to get rid of those variables.

He’s really good at that for sure.

Photo Jun 14 8 03 31 PM2

This photo, from Taj’s final event in Fiji 2016, says it all.

Photography

Ryan Miller

When you left, the impression that was left on people was that you took the seriousness out of those events when you were around. Because you were doing the tour the way you were, people were like, “I should take things easier. Look at Taj!” I think most had the sense you were just a massive positive force, just being around, for a lot of guys on tour those years.

Yeah, I guess that I can be a positive in a way.

But to win contests and to win a World Title, which I never did, you probably do have to be more serious [laughs].

There are two sides to the sun, it depends what you really want. But I just really wanted to have fun. That was my number one goal.

It definitely can be a positive for a lot of people, who find themselves getting too caught up in competition, just getting so deep and depressed and down when you have a loss—because losses are hard to deal with. And you lose a lot more than you freaking win.

You have to deal with losses so much. It would take me probably a day and a half, or two days, to get over my losses. You’re really, really grumpy for at least 24, 48 hours, and then I would just let it go. That’s one of the hardest parts of being on tour.

If my positivity, or my attitude on tour of just having fun—if that’s rubbed off on people, then that’s insane. It’s just finding the happy medium where you got to switch on and you got to switch it off, otherwise, you never get to rest.

That being said, you do have to really put the blinkers on and put your head down. You do have to work hard and you do have to be serious if you want to win a World Title.

02 04

Honestly.

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