Stab Magazine | The Angle of God

The Angle of God

Chopper. At 10 o’clock.  It comes over the hill, the machine-gun voomp-voomp of its rotor scaring animals back into their holes and blasting the sleepy village of Yallingup out of its wealthy torpor. This day would have been amazing anyway. Three-metre swell. Low crowd. Light wind. Bright sunshine. Top-to-bottom caves. Now it’s got 10 times […]

style // Feb 22, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Chopper. At 10 o’clock. 
It comes over the hill, the machine-gun voomp-voomp of its rotor scaring animals back into their holes and blasting the sleepy village of Yallingup out of its wealthy torpor. This day would have been amazing anyway. Three-metre swell. Low crowd. Light wind. Bright sunshine. Top-to-bottom caves. Now it’s got 10 times better. The chopper flies half a kay up the beach to Canal Rocks where Jake Paterson and Taj Burrow have been waiting on their jetski, incredulous about what’s about to go down. Only the arrival of the chopper above them, with three photographers (one shooting stills, one video, one 16mm) leaning out one of its doors, confirms that this dream is actually true. The pilot, Vietnam vet, does a low swoop over them to announce the start of proceedings. They hoot, fire up the ski, and follow the chopper back to one of West Oz’s shallowest reef breaks. Back on land, four more photographers are scrambling to take their positions. No one is sure what is crazier: the action that is about to happen, or the improbability of it having come together at all. Not only were the odds stacked against this mission, bit it wouldn’t have been conceived had Taj not suffered a heartbreaking setback a week earlier in Brazil, which is where this story really starts…

Late October.  Taj has had the best run of his career. Coming out of Europe he’s in third position, behind Kelly and Andy. He’s in contention, but out of the spotlight – just the way he likes it. Now the circus is in Brazil, where he’s won twice, and never got less than a third. The world title that everyone was saying seven years ago was rightfully his is back in his sights. He wins his first-round heat then retires to his hotel room while the organisers wait for better conditions. He’s fit, confident, determined and on a roll. One day, two days, three…

Friday, on November 3, a small swell arrives, along with an onshore. The comp is moved two hours down the coast, to joaquina beach, where Taj would normally flare among the rippable peaks and ramps. But not on this day. When Taj wakes, he’s barely able to get out of bed. His limbs are stiff and weak, his head is spinning and he’s hacking oysters from deep in his lungs. Taj Burrow has a cold. He loses the heat to 32-year-old Brazilian wildcard Renan Rocha. Taj emerges from the water, wraps one of his trusty 5’1” Webbers round a pole on front of some startled spectators, leaves it in splinters on the sand, and gets one of the even representatives to drive him back to his hotel. He sits in the back and doesn’t say a word the whole journey, even though one of his best mates, Twiggy, is in the front seat. Kelly goes on to win, virtually eliminating Taj from the title race. Still producing oysters, he drags his body and bag full of boards (minus one) onto the 50-hour flight home. If he’d been competing in any sport other than surfing, this flight would have been a one-way trip to despondency. Taj is one of the most competitive and creative kids on tour. He might have blown his chance at a title but somewhere on that flight he reminds himself that this is surfing, and it’s not the end of the world. During a stopover in Sydney, with the oysters now reduced to baby slugs, a plan takes shape. He knows he’s flying into a decent swell back home. He’s got five days up his sleeve. And his management company back in California has just lined up a $US250,000 deal with the Malloy’s film-making cousins to produce a new signature video.

Time to refocus. He’s seen some of the footage from the new, unreleased Rusty video, with Joel, Mick and Josh Kerr doing some freak punts. His first two vids Montaj and Sabotaj, had once set the agenda, but now they’re a bit dated. Time to reassert. World title? What world title? Taj Burrow might still have a cold, the one that wrecked the plan he had only a week before, but now it’s on the wane, and is no match for the adrenalin surging through his energised body. The disappointment of Brazil is replaced by the kind of nervousness he’s hardly ever known in his short, trouble-free life. He spends an hour on the phone in Sydney putting things in motion. He lays down fifteen thousand skins for a chopper for two days. Transworld and Stab shooter, D Hump, is flown from Bali at short notice.

This is a major operation, the objective being for Taj to be towed into four-to-six-foot waves and launch the biggest and/or craziest airs he’s ever attempted and have them shot from a whole new mind-blowing angle. But what if the wind’s too offshore to punt? What if there’s crew at the break who object to him taking over with enough petrol-powered equipment to blow them all out of the water? What if the pilot can’t track the action? What if he doesn’t pull off any big moves?


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