Burrow fires on secret weapon

By ANDREW McKINNON TAJ Burrow is all fired up on his latest secret surfing weapon, the Firewire surfboard, which he demonstrated awesomely in his second win of the year, the Billabong Pro at Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa.

The Western Australian is now rated number two in the world, less than 600 points behind ASP World tour ratings leader Mick Fanning, and holds a better scoring card with two wins, a third and two throwaways a 9th and 17th. At the end of the year the pros will drop their worst two results, and as it stands that gives Taj a headstart, with Mick's outstanding run consisting of one first, two seconds and two thirds. The pros now get a well-earned break before heading to California for next month's Boost Mobile Pro at Trestles.

The ASP World Tour is at the halfway mark and there are now five contenders with five WCT events remaining in the battle for this year's world title Mick Fanning, Taj Burrow, Andy Irons, Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson. Mick holds the lead, but the others are catching, and if Taj wins again, it could be shut the gate.

And it's the new equipment that has given Taj his best chance ever of winning a world title.

About this time last year Nev Hyman had taken on the biggest challenge of his surfboard making career. He was contacted by WA shaper Brett Burger who had been working on a whole new revolutionary technological process using triple density epoxy core and parabolic stringers.

The epoxy lamination is nothing new, but the real innovation was the parabolic stringer. Instead of a vertical stinger in the middle, the new Firewire construction has stringers on the rail which create long-lasting and rapid flow memory.

The evidence can be seen watching Taj's hacks and down-the-line snaps at J-Bay, not to forget his 10-point triple tube ride and the only 10 of the event. It gave him the advantage to clearly defeat Joel in the quarters, Mick in the semis and Kelly in the finals.

Last year Taj was trialling the new equipment but still had some doubts and went back to the conventional boards until his runner-up place to Fanning at J-Bay last year.

Taj rides a slightly smaller board than the other pros, opting for a 5ft11 long, 18.25 inches wide and 2-1/8 inches thick board. The fins are glassed on but there are different variations to suit his compact style.

"Taj uses a fairly wide stance with his back foot right over the fins for those patent TB hacks," Hyman explained. "So I created two footwells for his stance plus I gave the board more spring with a horizontal springer which gives the little extra punch and whip out of the turns."

The surfboard industry is going through massive change with mass production of moulded boards in China and Thailand. The first stage of the Firewire blanks are constructed by a 3D computer program designed by Nev at Burleigh and are then sent over to Asia for the epoxy lamination. Firewire surfboards are now globally based in San Diego and have the backing of high-profile former industry heavyweights like Dougal Walker, former GM of Billabong, Matthew Perron former CEO of Billabong, and sporting celebs like golfers Adam Scott and Ian Baker Finch.

Modern surfboards in the future could be designed by kids with advanced technology sitting in R&D laboratories. Custom shapes and shapers as we know them could be replaced by hi-tech.

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