Taj in search of  elusive title
Irony: Taj Burrow. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

Taj Burrow is well aware of the irony in his frustration that the waves he once enjoyed almost to himself as a teenager are now regularly crowded with surfers.

The popularity of WA's South West is a monster he helped create during his rise from a talented Yallingup grommet who joined the world tour at 18 to a seasoned veteran, who turns 36 next week.

"There are so many surfers these days. Sometimes I get frustrated with all the people surfing my home spot," he told The West Australian during a trip home to Yallingup in between world tour events.

"But then I realise I have put out videos and photos of myself surfing out there for years in perfect waves. So I guess I have nobody to blame but myself. I just embrace it and join the crowd."

Those "perfect waves" can be found at Rabbits, a break on Burrow's doorstep in Yallingup where local photographer Chris Gurney captured him in his element during a trip home over summer.

The region's status as a world-class surfing destination was cemented last month when Margaret River was included on the world tour for the first time in more than 20 years.

Although Burrow had a disappointing finish at the event, he has finished in the top three in the other three events so far and will head to Fiji this week, ranked second behind Kelly Slater.

His first world title still eludes him, but Burrow said he was now fitter and healthier than ever and hopes this year could be his year.

"I feel like I haven't performed anywhere close to my best," he said. "I am planning to surf a whole lot better for the remainder of the year starting with Fiji. I really want a big result there."

Taj Burrow tackles Yallingup's famous Rabbits break. Picture Chris Gurney

Although he loves the lifestyle, Burrow's mind is increasingly turning to life after the tour and he admits he looks forward to settling down in Yallingup.

"(The tour) is all I know. I keep telling myself 'Ah, I'll just do a couple more years' but then those couple years go by so fast," he said.

"I am fitter and healthier than I've ever been, so why would I quit now.

"I want to spend more time at home, but I know that's coming in the future. I'd also like to travel to some non-surfing destinations. I do get really sick of the travel, but I know I'll be spending plenty of time at home in my later years, so why not soak up the good life while I can."

Despite the growing popularity of surfing in WA, Burrow believes the State remains immune to the aggression in the water he is seeing elsewhere in the world.

"I don't like aggression in the water and fortunately there is not much here in WA," he said.

"There is somewhat of a pecking order at breaks around the world and if people respect it, then everything runs smoothly."

Having joined the tour as a teenager, Burrow admits to "treating himself pretty bad" in the past, but now has a far healthier lifestyle, thanks to coach Johnny Gannon.

"My parents and Johnny Gannon have been the best influence of my career," he said.

"They have taught me so many things, the main one being how to look after yourself . . . thanks to them I have learnt how to do all the right things for my body.

"I cannot give Johnny enough credit. I would not be where I am today without him. We train, stretch and eat great food. I want longevity out of my career and that's the only way to do it."

I am fitter and healthier than I've ever been, so why would I quit now."Taj Burrow

The West Australian

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