Twin Fin Taj The Eternal Grom
2017 FOUR SEASONS MALDIVES SURFING CHAMPIONS TROPHY | EVENT PARTNER
Story by Hugh Wyllie
Taj Burrow ages backwards at Four Seasons Twin Fin division.
Warm water laps white sand, where sun fades and the stars rise. In the shallows, a group of baby reef sharks perform their evening ritual chasing handfuls of baitfish. Taj Burrow, CJ Hobgood, Ross Williams, Rob Machado and their gals are here to watch the feeding – with me as ninth wheel. We’ve had a huge day at Sultans – four feet plus – pouring onto the pristine atoll fringe.
Everyone’s zapped, except Taj who’s revved up like a speedboat. “Look at those wedges!” He says now, pointing at the ankle high shories with full conviction. He’s got grom froth, and fair enough… this is the Maldives and Taj has just won $3k in prizemoney. But we’ll get to that later because now the crew is heading to CJ's water bungalow.
We walk the boardwalk mile to this honeymooners retreat suspended on stilts high above the ocean. It’s been gifted to CJ and his girl Courtney by the Four Seasons Hotel for a couple of nights and they are totally chuffed. The room invites open sea. The infinity pool sparkles. Fruit bats fly through the night air. Fish glide below. We bounce around the wharf like kids. CJ says “it doesn’t get any better this.” Which is cool, because a certain crummy oracle owes it to him.
5 hours earlier was a different story. It’s the twin fin division of the Four Seasons Surfing Champions Trophy and CJ is on the ropes. Local wild card Ismail Miglal is jumping over sections like Olympic hurdles. That’s the word for his effort, Olympic. It’s sick to see because the bloke friggin’ rips on his 5’6’’ twinny, shaped by Terry Fitzgerald no less.
His dream run ends in the semis but stoke levels stay high. “Making a heat at this event is like a dream for me,” he’d later say. “I never thought it would happen. It is really surreal surfing against my heroes and to beat a World Champion is amazing, I got really lucky. We are all so stoked the waves turned on today, it was pumping out there. I’m so honoured to represent the Maldives.”
As for Taj Burrow – retirement can wait because right now he’s ageing backwards inside the pit, and even claims it with a teenie chop hop. This fountain of youth delivers just in time for the Taj v Ross Williams semi. Later Ross will say the jersey sparked his nerves, but you wouldn’t know it from his opening drainer.
His 5’10 Aipa weaves out a 17.36 heat total for the commentator, turned super coach, turned school principal who puts the pop quiz on Taj with a 8.70 gap in the dying minutes. A set looms, and Taj chomps in like a bowl of Weetbix. Spoonfuls later the wave curdles into boat wake as Taj dumps the fins get the score. He makes the final with a 18.10 total.
Post heat, Rosco insists “the fact that I had a lead in that heat at all was cool as Taj is ripping so hard. I’ve only surfed that twin fin a couple of times so it was nice to feel it out. You really have to surf with your rail on a twin fin otherwise you just slide out, so it’s a major learning curve, something that makes this event super cool. It was a really good battle that heat, and that’s what you want.” The student graduates.
The Taj v Rob final is electric. Machado knocked him out in the singley semis yesterday, and Taj clearly has a bone to pick with the style swami, who is still the man to beat at the event. On his self shaped 5’5’’ Midus twin, The Rob finds his flow, rock and rollin' with the lip to post a cool 7.4 and a 14.80 heat total. But Taj goes ham, blasting fins, hooking hard. Simply unloading. The clincher is a launch over the polyps, leaving Rob to chase a 9.7, to no avail. He climbs aboard the Azakara to chug a beer with the judges, and let it settle. The day of the gemini belongs to Taj, as stars align 16.67 and a whopping big 3k cheque.
Back on The Explorer, you’d expect Taj to sprout the old bleached bowl cut as he groms out on the perfect conditions today, saying “I couldn’t believe how good the waves were today, I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be that good. We were pretty spoiled. Everyone was so fired up today, my heat with Ross was so sick, just a real see-saw then the final with Rob was just all time, I'm so warn out now!” Of said final Taj admits “surfing in a final with Rob on a ‘twinnie’ is a pretty tough task. He is so good on these different boards and is surfing so well right now, it’s like he is still a teenager, it was super intense and I’m stoked to get one back on him. I haven’t surfed this board since last year but I knew if I got a good one on it, it’d go well I loved it. It’s just so sick to be back here, the level of luxury is amazing!”
However, it’s the swami of style, Mr Rob Machado, who remains ahead for overall victory this year having made two finals so far and pocketing another $1k in treasure. Of the day he says, “when we pulled up this morning we were freaking out. The waves were so good today, everyone was stoked,” says Rob.
“After surfing here last year I had a good idea of the twin fin I wanted to shape and I loved how it went, this wave offers a lot of different sections so you need a versatile board. The waves were non-stop all day; it was amazing and a real pleasant surprise.”
Stay tuned for the thruster division of the 2017 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy tomorrow and the crowning of the big kahuna.
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