Words by Michael Saunders | Photos by Stu Gibson
Taj Burrow just exited the World Championship Tour the same way he entered it: full throttle and leaving nothing in the lineup.
As the curtain draws on his illustrious 20 year career on the ASP/WSL “dream tour”, the boy from Busselton waved goodbye in spectacular fashion, and left us all wanting more as he took the leader of surfing’s next generation, John John Florence, to the absolute brink at Cloudbreak.
The waves may have been a little less in quality, but the contest between the two shared many similarities to Kelly and JJF’s famous “superheat” at Teahupoo in 2014. Only this time, it was the young apprentice pulling out the win, 18.76 to 18.60.
The two went wave for glorious wave throughout the 30 minute heat. With each dropping nine point rides to swap leads in the dying minutes. Unfortunately, Taj’s scores of 9.20 and 9.40 were not enough for John John’s 9.43 and 9.33 rides.
Was JJF scored too high? Would Taj have been given a better score if he didn’t blow that turn after being spat out of a Cloudbreak cavern? These kind of questions are why we love competitive surfing. There was drama, there were mistakes and there will probably be debate for weeks. But that is all part and parcel of the WSL, and why we keep coming back for more.
After receiving a round of applause in the water from the Aussie contingent of Mick Fanning, Bede and co, Taj summed it up in typical Taj fashion when asked about the heat. Brushing aside the fact that he lost, for the fact that he just scored pumping waves.
“It was honestly one of the best heats of my life,” he said.
“It was incredible. The waves are so suck and I just went out with a goal of getting a sick one. I wanted the biggest wave I could find.
“I feel like I’ve won the event. I feel like I’ve won the world title. I’m just so happy.”
And just like that, a man responsible for transforming modern day competitive surfing says goodbye to a job that has lasted two decades. We have no doubt we’ll be seeing him in surfing videos and the occasional magazine spread, but things won’t be the same without him.
Round 3, Heat 10 Result
John John Florence (HAW) 18.76 defeats Taj Burrow (AUS) 18.60