Screen grab via What Youth
Taj Burrow’s competitive surf career ended in Fiji yesterday at the hands of John John Florence. It is an apropos ending to a storied career that was remarkable from the moment began: Taj Burrow is still the only surfer to qualify for the world tour and decline his spot, citing at the time the desire to wait another year to before taking his spot amongst the world’s elite. It may be one of the few moments of outlandish maturity marking the career of the biggest man-grom on tour. For it to end at the hands of JJF, a prodigy of the new generation who was also relevant before his eighteenth birthday, seems as if the circle has come all the way round.
Taj will always be remembered, in small part, for what he didn’t do. Despite numerous event wins and a career primarily composed of top 5 and top 10 year end finishes, he never managed a world title. His two runner up finishes will go down as casualties of the Kelly Slater era, and who knows how many titles would adorn his mantle if not for the bald-headed Floridian.
But this will always be the least important part of Taj’s legacy: Taj will forever be remembered for his approach to surfing, both in attitude and ability. Perennially smiling, and with an apparent appetite for good times to match, Taj seems to be the last of a breed that realizes that competitive surfing is mostly a vehicle for good times, a way to travel around the world on someone else’s dime and surfing some of the best waves in the world. Even at his most competitive and most serious, Taj never seemed to take himself too seriously.
Taj’s surfing will undoubtedly be rewatched and revered for a long time to come. From pushing progressive surfing above the lip and inspiring the current generation of aerialists, to hunting heaving barrels in all conditions, Taj has always surfed fast and loose. His legacy outside of a jersey, a string of video parts that are as relevant now as they ever were. From early profile films to appearances in recent ensemble productions by Joe G or Kai Neville, (and even a brief interlude in the Caribbean surfing in Crocs with Sterling Spencer), Taj’s celluloid exploits will stand the test of time as an approach to surfing that will always be important: surf fast, surf hard, and leave everything in the water except a big ass smile.
Hopefully the next few years will bring about more travel, and with it, more clips from Taj. They will always be entertaining, and they will always be worth watching. The rising generation would do well to remember that competitive surfing should never be as serious as they all seem to think it is: it will always be less important than boat trips and Bintangs.