Stab Magazine | The Stab Interview: Taj Burrow
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The Stab Interview: Taj Burrow

“It’s just so weird to see that kind of generation retiring. I don’t see anyone replacing them. I don’t feel like it could be replaced.”

style // Jul 3, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Do you remember your very first Taj Moment? I can’t. As a teenager more than obsessed with every intricate detail of professional surfing at the turn of the century, Taj was just always there. For me and my friends, more than Mick or Joel or Dingo, Taj was our favorite Australian export, the most well-rounded, unabashedly high-performance surfer of the lot.

He surfed fast and light-footed, his chippy boards just feathers beneath him, punting airs in West Oz that we must have rewound a thousand times. We dreamed of what his Maurice Cole’s felt like. We fanned out over the helicopter amp reel, on Dustin Humphries’ remarkable handiwork from the bird. We begged our local shop to get Firewires in when Taj debuted them. We stole copies of SaboTaj from each other over and over.

So it was of course quite an honor to have Taj agree, some twenty years later, to keep my seat at Stab warm these last two weeks.

We’re psyched you’ve enjoyed Taj’s Guest Editor reign. From the first day we conceived the Guest Editor series, Taj’s name was at the top of the list. It was only fitting.

The interview below occurred over the phone, after Taj and I had hammered out ideas for the features you’ve seen coming through your feed this last week.

Welcome to The Taj Burrow Interview.

04 01

“I don’t normally say, ‘No’ to people. I kind of take on everything. I get a bit stressed out over a few too many jobs, but I’m slowly learning how to manage my time.” (Photo: Richard Freeman)

Taj Spon1

Do you remember your very first Taj Moment? (Photo: John Respondek)

Stab: How’s dad life treating you?

Taj: Mate, it’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me, hands down. 

I’ve got a daughter, and she’s nearly two-and-a-half. 

Obviously, it’s really hard work, but so rewarding—when they do cool stuff, when you come home from a trip, or just from a day out, and they just run at you for a hug. That’s the best feeling on the planet.

I’m actually doing 10 days alone with her right now, Mom’s away. It’s definitely a test for me, but it’s so fun, so good. I’m nearly halfway through, and it hasn’t annoyed me at all yet—just smooth sailing. I love it. It’s really fun just to spend time just with her. 

04 00 main

“I like to be out in big open spaces and I want my kid to be the same.” (Photo by Richard Freeman)

How do you feel about raising a family out in West Oz? 

I couldn’t pick anywhere better. The West is the Best, for sure.

It’s definitely good for kids. I like them experiencing this part of the outdoors and the wild rugged coastline, and not too damn much of a hectic city life, where they can be influenced in ways.

I just think country kids are the coolest. I’ve seen all my friends bring up kids around here, and they’ve raised them so well. 

When I’m doing my best and I’m eating well, we catch fish and then we grow the veggies—it’s the tastiest, healthiest meal on the planet.

It’s just good clean living. The environment’s so pure down here. It’s the cleanest water and the cleanest air. I don’t like being in a city. I don’t like being surrounded by big numbers of people, just from years traveling through airports and big cities.

But you can still get that, if you want it. I go to Sydney and the Gold Coast, regularly. 

I like to be out in big open spaces and I want my kid to be able to escape when she can. 

Taj Last

“I feel like I won the even. I feel like I won the World Title!” (Photo: Ryan Miller)

Do you feel like you’ve worked out a pretty good day-to-day, balancing all your business stuff with being able to spend a lot of time with her?

It’s funny you say that. One of the main things I’ve learned since I retired was that I always thought I was going to have all this spare time on my hands—just at the beach, twiddling my thumbs, thinking, “What the fuck do I do now?”

It’s been the opposite.

I’ve been so busy with things. It’s almost like people know that I’m more available now that I’m not on tour, so I’ve been getting hit up for so many different things.

Sam [McIntosh] will laugh at me for this, because he always jokes about how worked up I get if I’ve got three things to do in one day, or if I have to do two runs to town in one day—I just freak out. I’m too overwhelmed, I’ve got too much on.

He just looks at me, like, “Is he fucking serious?”

It’s ridiculous.

But I don’t normally say, “No” to people. I kind of take on everything. I get a bit stressed out over a few too many jobs, but I’m slowly learning how to manage my time.

I have to pick and choose what I can do. Anyone that’s a parent would know how time-consuming kids are, and I want to give them my time. I’m sorting my life out so I can prioritize everything and get it all going. It’s all good. 

Do you feel inspired to pay attention to Pro Surfing pretty closely still? Do you follow it, like, granularly?

Yes. I absolutely watch everything. I can’t resist. It’s addictive. I love it. I still watch every single heat.

After you retired, it seemed a lot of guys from your generation sort of took it as the time to do the same. How did it feel, Mick calling it a day?

I felt relief for him. I feel like he really wanted to. I feel like it was the perfect time.

Mick definitely had my number when I was on tour, like no one on this planet. I’ve got way, way, better stats with Andy, Joel, Kelly—but Mick? I can’t get near that prick.

He’s so fucking deadly.

Taj Mick RyanMiller

Photography

Ryan Miller

 

I’ve been spending heaps of time with him lately. Especially once I retired, and even just prior to my retirement, I definitely let my guard down competitively. And as soon as I did that, I just found myself becoming such better friends with all my rivals.

With all those guys, we’re all mates but it was intense. You’re out there trying to fucking kill each other in the water. Then you’re mates on land.

Mick and Joel and I were always mates, but I was never really as close to those guys as I am now. 

It’s so good to just let your guard down and just be good honest mates. I don’t like that intense pressure between people. I know it’s the lifestyle I chose, but I don’t like that feeling.

I just don’t like having that intense relationship. I much prefer it the way it is now. There’s nothing better than looking back and laughing about stuff. Now that Mick’s retired, it’s awesome. We get to just share the memories, share some good times ahead.

How long’s Parko’s got left in him?

I think Joel’s pretty happy on tour.

I want him to stay there because I like seeing the good old boys just slice and dice. I don’t think anyone can do it like Mick and Joel. I can’t see anyone matching their ability when it comes to just big frontside carves. They’re just so iconic, those two.

It’s just so weird to see that kind of generation retiring. I just look at them as such just massive characters, and such icons, that I don’t see anyone replacing them. I don’t feel like it could be replaced. Just that perfect surfing.

I think they’re perfect surfers.

You guys defined a generation for Australia in a way that there really hasn’t been since, and in a way that hadn’t been done since the Busting Down The Door era.

Yes. For sure. It was definitely a pretty unique generation.

Any waves stand out from your days on tour, any that you’ll take to the grave with ya?

Probably the most memorable wave I can recall, was maybe during the Rip Curl Search in Mexico.

I remember it was the first heat of the day, and I got a really sick one—it probably would’ve been a 10 at any other stage, but because it was the best waves any contest had ever seen, and I was the first heat of the day, I got a 9.98. I got this crazy wave, got three or four ridiculous tubes on it. I’ve never seen a wave so perfect. 

Was that the best surf contest, pretty much, ever?

If I was ever going to pick one to relive, it would be that one for sure. I think it has to be. I’ve never seen waves like that. It was fucking crazy. That was unbelievable. 

I’ve surfed Barra so many times before and after that event, but I’ve never seen it like that. I don’t think it could ever get better than that. It’s always been fun and it’s had tube sections and really fun turn sections, but that was just draining off its head, from start to finish. 

It was funny because just before that event, we were filming for Trilogy—me and Andy and Joel. We went down to Salina Cruz and we were getting sick waves. We kind of thought we nailed it.

But then we came back to Barra, and were like, “Oh, we snuck away from the whole tour. We got the sick waves down in Salina,” and then we saw what Barra was doing, and we just went: “What The. Fucccckkk? This is crazy, everyone will be getting the tubes of their life!”

We kind of thought we were scoring, sneaking away, and I just remember thinking, “What the hell? We should have been here the whole time.”

We got a good taste of it in the event, though. That was just the most amazing contest.

Taj John Barton

“It’s just so weird to see that kind of generation retiring. I just look at them as such just massive characters, and such icons, that I don’t see anyone replacing them.” (Photo: John Barton)

The surfing that went down in that is some of the best contest surfing that’s ever happened. Some of Andy’s waves…

Yes! I remember him doing that massive straight air in the final. Some of the surfing that he did, I remember—I think it might have been just free surfing, but I think it’s even in Trilogy, maybe—but Andy was doing these fucking massive frontside finners and floaters, and then just dropping into the tube on like, I swear like eight foot walls. Almost air to floater kind things, he was going mad.

That wave was really powerful too and he was just manhandling it. He’d wait for those double ups, and then just like pop into those things right when they got square.

I remember watching that footage and thinking, “Fuck, that is exactly how I would like to be able to surf.”

Have you gotten a chance to see the Andy documentary yet?

I did, yeah.

I saw it with a Billabong crew a few months ago, and it was really intense.

Taj Quinn Matthews1

TB and a room with a view. (Photo: Quinn Matthews)

Did it leave you feeling like a weight had been lifted a little bit? I feel like a lot of people have been carrying a lot of that around for a long time, now.

Fuck. I don’t know. I don’t know if I had a weight lifted. It just made me feel sad, really.

I think about him pretty fucking regularly. He was such a big character.

The documentary—it’s really accurate, and it really tells the whole story, which is just a wild story, and he’s just a wild character.

Just seeing it so up close and personal, and seeing the direct impact, especially to his family, it freaked me out.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when we watched it. It was heart-wrenching.

It’s just one of those ones where he’s so incredibly successful, and there’s so much positivity to his story, but just watching how sad and just how much it affected everyone at the end, it’s hard for me to watch.

It’s a really, really crazy story that I think a lot of people can relate to it.

Taj Chris Gurney

Taj and Rabbits, a Stab favourite. (Photo: Chris Gurney)

So what’s the future look like? Groms, a nice little abode in West Oz…

When I’m at home, or just when I got spare time on my hand now that I’m retired, I really want to chase waves around my hometown. Over the years, I’ve been away so much. Now when I’m home, I just really want to sink my teeth into my hometown, and really find the best waves I can, here.

There’s so many times that I just go chasing tubes and knock turns. You can’t really do turns in West Oz anyway. It’s either tubes or airs. There’s not really anywhere that you can do turns. Otherwise, you’re just at chunky, weird little reef breaks or wild beach breaks, the wild shore break waves.

My whole life, I’ve been just aiming to get a house nearby [Redacted Location] and I was fortunate enough that the perfect one came up. I’ve got my eyes on [Redacted] as we speak right now. You get those barrels you love, and you can do turns and airs. It’s just got a bit of everything and it’s got so many different moods, because the sands always swirls around out here. It’s just my favorite bit of sand on the planet.

I just love it.

Well, Taj. Congrats on everything, brother, and thanks for being Stab’s first Guest Editor.

Thanks, mate. Too easy.

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