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Ex sarge, St.Merryn, Cornwall, United Kingdom, Friday November 12th, 2004.

Taj Burrow
Taj slices the lip off a Lower Trestles wall during the Boost Mobile Pro, Presented by Quiksilver, earlier this year.

ONE of the most frequently asked questions in pro’ surfing circles is “How come Taj Burrow doesn’t win more contests”, or “Why isn’t TB world champ yet?” Well, allelulia, the 26 year-old has broken a two-year drought with his win earlier this week in the 10th WCT event of the 2004 season, the Nova Schin Festival in Florianopolis in Brasil. His victory at the southern venue of Imbituba in the mobile event, was only the fourth WCT win of his well-publicised career as one of the world’s most acclaimed and respected surfers, living testimony to the fact that there’s more to the top level of the sport than ‘just’ surfing. Remarkably, it was his third win in Brasil.

Taj Burrow
Taj is without doubt one of the leading aerial exponents in the world today, a forte he put to good use on his way to victory in Brasil's Nova Schin Festival WCT.

“It’s weird huh?” said TB, as we call him, on the phone from LA today, answering the obvious question on everyone’s lips. “Brasil has been really good to me, that’s for sure”, he continued, “Maybe it’s just that the Brasilian WCT is always towards the end of the season, and by that stage I’m just extra hungry for a win. You want to win at least one WCT every year!”

Taj Burrow
Hunting that 'Blue Steel' look?

Since he graduated into the WCT ranks at the end of 1997, after actually having qualified the previous year at 11th on the WQS ratings, but then denying the upgrade and electing to amass another year of experience before stepping up, Taj has won an ASP event every season but two. The season of 2003 was especially one of ‘close, but not quite’. He finished third in the world, but it was without a WCT win. He finished second in his sponsor Billabong’s Teahupoo and Mundaka events, losing both times to Kelly Slater. He also finished runner-up in the Boost Mobile Pro at Trestles. To complete his patronage of Billabong events, he made the semi-finals in Jeffreys Bay, his attempts at making the final cut short by an almost face-to-face encounter mid-heat with a huge Great White shark, which saw him transformed from one of the world’s fastest surfers to one of the world’s fastest paddlers – straight for, and up the rocks. He was also a semi-finalist at the Quiksilver Pro in France. Fate not satisfied with his run of seconds, he also ended up bridesmaid at the US Open WQS event at Huntington, a position he rectified by winning that same event this season.

Taj Burrow
The young bloke just hates keeping his tail in the water as he runs down the line slinging off the top.

I was in the channel in a boat watching the final day of the 2003 Billabong Pro Teahupoo unfold, shoulder to shoulder with Taj’s fellow West Australian mate, photographer Kevin ‘Twiggy’ Sharland. It was hard to get ‘work’ done, Twiggy’s glee, encouraging screams to his young mate Taj, and almost constant back slaps and rib prods, just the mark of the devoted one-man cheer squad and enthusiastic and proud mate that he was to Taj. Oh so tragically, our mate Twiggy is no longer with us, his death in France last month just impossible to comprehend. He was a close mate of many on tour, a real dependable man of his word, genuine in spirit and practice, as well as Taj’s big brother and forever present guiding and supporting hand. In Brasil, the boys continued to talk longingly and lovingly about Twiggy, and of course he was still with them in spirit, and always will be, especially for Taj. Taj dedicated his Brasilian win to Twiggy.

Taj Burrow
Being consoled by his girlfriend Claire after a loss in the Quiksilver Pro Japan. It's all about winning isn't it!

“I’ve been thinking of him almost constantly, every day in Brasil” confided Taj. “I had a motel room that I had pre-booked and was to share with him. He loved it over there in Brasil. I was continually picturing him there, throwing me shakas, and amping me up. He was never far from me”.

Taj Burrow & Twiggy
A study in dual concentration. Taj and the late great Twiggy caught deep in thought during the Quiksilver Pro France. It was a rare thing to catch Twig' frowning.

The Aussie crew stuck together in Brasil, brought even closer together in the shadow of Twiggy’s death. Uncharacteristically, many of the boys stayed on after losing their heats, supporting their mates. Taj and Nova Schin runner-up Tom Whitaker drove down to Imbituba on the last day of the event, contemplating on the way how cool it would be if they both made the final, a statistical possibility as they honed in towards a confrontation from different sides of the event draw. A matter of hours later the pair looked over each other’s shoulders as they suited up for the final, chuckling “Okay, we’re not friends any more!”

Taj Burrow
Racing to fit it all in before the shutdown, in the Billabong Pro Mundaka last month in the Basque Country.

After the final of the event, before thousands of enthusiastic Brasileiro fans, Tommy had bolted from a very marginal 26th on the ratings and into where his talent is well-deserving at 13th, amongst the elite Top 16, whilst Taj had climbed from eighth to fifth. With only the Rip Curl Pipeline Masters remaining in the 2004 WCT schedule, Taj’s confidence and dedication bolstered after Brasil, we might well expect a further ratings upgrade from him, the renowned performer whom we all still somehow think of as being just barely out of grommethood. He is of course now a man, and one raised in the big and challenging waves of the Margaret River region, well qualified to go all the way at Pipe’, indeed a former semi-finalist there. Out there in the lineup, he’ll be set to draw on his undisputed skills, as well as the depth and strength of character and confidence that Twiggy fortified in all who were blessed to know him. As Twiggy would regularly shout out from behind his lens, spurring on his young mate out in the waves, “Go you little bewdy!”

Taj Burrow
During events, TB is always one of the first out there to greet the sun. Here he is in JBay meeting the golden rays.