The Taj Predicament

After 13 years on tour, Taj Burrow has never looked more lethal in a heat. Photo: Ellis

Shea Lopez

The author of SURFER’s Top 32 Review, Shea Lopez spent 11 years competing on the World Tour and now reigns as our resident expert on the pro surfosphere.

What would you do if you were consistently the fastest, most progressive, and most radical surfer on Tour for over 10 years, but without a World Title to your name? Would you become disgruntled and look to other avenues for validation of your talents? Would you rest on your laurels, happy to have accomplished all you have despite the poor timing of having to face Kelly and AI during their primes? Or would you dig deep and find the strength and perseverance to mount an attack on the World Title like none you have ever attempted in before?

For Taj Burrow, the answer is to revamp his entire approach. From the lines drawn in competition to diet and training regimen, everyone is looking to gain an edge when coming against the ultra-prepared and gifted talents of Slater, Jordy, Mick, Owen, and Parko. The professionalism being displayed by these five surfers is not only elevating their own performance, but the entire Top 32 and Top 32-hopefuls as well. And Taj is no exception. They know that they have to step up their game in order to not be left behind as the field shrinks and the mass of worldwide talent grows.

Taj first qualified for the WCT back in ’96 only to sit out in ’97 to better prepare himself to be on Tour and to challenge for the World Title. Ever since being named rookie of the year in ’98, Taj has been expected and then denied the No. 1 spot at seasons’ end. Through all the ups and downs over those years, Taj maintained a chipper demeanor, as his popularity among young surfers was for the most part even greater than Slater’s—largely due to his fantastic surfing, documented so well in his many signature films. Those films required a ton of hands-on time to reach the level of quality Taj expected not only of himself, but of a production with his name on it. If instead he had spent that time doing some serious training, keeping up a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep, that may have changed a couple of those runner-up and numerous Top Five finishes into a world title…or three.

Now that the eternal grom, Taj, has committed himself to doing all the little things he neglected in his past, you can clearly see the massive spike in performance he exhibited at Snapper. If he is capable of sustaining this level of drive for the remainder of the season, Taj could very well be the World Champion by year’s end. And even if not, nobody ever regretted giving it their all to chase a dream. For that effort alone, Taj will always be remembered as one of the true champions of our sport and a great example for future generations of surfers. Here’s to hoping we see Taj in the midst of a serious world-title battle come December at the Pipe Masters.

Taj by the numbers:

13 Years spent on Tour
8 Times he finished in the Top 5
2 Times he fell out of the Top 10 (once during his rookie year and once during the shortened 2001 season)
2 Number of times he finished the Tour season runner-up (1999 and 2007)
9 Number of World Tour event wins
3 Number of signature films (though he’s appeared in countless others while still competing full-time)