While surfing fans in and around Australia celebrated another Aussie victory at the Rip Curl Pro, there was another aspect to Taj Burrow's victory at Bells that will be noted in the annals of surf history. Taj was the first ASP World Tour surfer to win an event riding what many are considering the next generation of surfboard technology. Namely: a sandwich construction board, or, composite, that features an expanded polystyrene core (EPS) surrounded by a higher density outer layer foam. In Taj's case, it was his Firewire board that did the trick.
“For (Taj’s) this board we made some tweaks in the rocker to better suit a slopey wave like Bells.” — Chuy Reyna, FireWire Marketing Department
Firewire is one of many brands today specializing in high-end sandwich construction. The Firewire also comes complete with balsa wood parabolic rails, which take the place of the stringer. The combination is vacuum bagged together using a very complex and still very secretive process, which Firewire advocates say add durability and performance.
Bells has a rich history of design breakthroughs being validated. Perhaps the biggest came in 1981, a year when Bells was maxing out at 15-feet, and the big, burly Simon Anderson rang the victory bell after setting the place on fire on his breakthrough three-fin "Thruster". Before Simon's victory, Mark Richards absolutely owned Bells on his twin-fins. Before Richards career was over, he rang the bell four times by destroying the competition on his breakthrough multi-finned boards. But it's not always boards surfers are talking about. In each of its 35 years as an event, every wetsuit company on the planet debuts their new line of winter suits at Bells' infamously cold Victorian waters. What better way to highlight their warmth and flexibility than with some of the world's best surfers trying to make something of the always-challenging conditions?
"The one he rode at Bells is a brand-new board," explains Chuy Reyna, marketing manager at Firewire. "It was designed off a J-Bay model that he rode all last year. For this board we made some tweaks in the rocker to better suit a slopey wave like Bells. But this is huge for us."
Burrow's victory is just the latest breakthrough in the surfing arms race that always seems to escalate at Bells. Make no mistake: board designers around the world will take notice of this win. Not only was it Burrow's first in four seasons, it also shot him into a tie for the ratings lead with his fellow countrymen Mick Fanning. That's all the validation any open-minded designer will need to start experimenting. Don't be surprised to see a few more surfers follow suit as well.
Taj turned some heads last year when he became the first surfer on tour to ride non-polyurethane boards full-time, opting instead to stack his quiver with Firewire's state-of-the-art composites. For the past six months he's been actively refining the boards with the research and development team at Firewire.
Just a few weeks before the Rip Curl Pro, Taj finished with an equal third place at the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast. Taj said, "There's no way I'd be riding these things if they weren't working." His win at Bells echoed the sentiment. "They're really working well." The results are obviously backing up his claims.