Throwback Tuesday! Taj taps into special finale performance

With Cloudbreak spitting absolute perfection, the ocean was manufacturing what turned out to be a truly memorable finale for fan-favorite Taj Burrow.

The Aussie brought his storied 19-year career to a close at the Fiji Pro, doing so with incredible style against the world’s best tube rider. Burrow and John John Florence gave all the onlookers off of Tavarua Island a day to remember and a story to tell.

Their third-round head-to-head battle should be the mid-year frontrunner for heat of the season. The pair traded haymakers in beautiful barrels, utilizing the size and force of the consistent waves to draw cheers from the channel after just about every set. When their matchup was complete, they had put up the two highest heat totals of the contest.

Despite coming up with the low score at 18.60, Burrow was all smiles as he celebrated with his fellow competitors and local boaters. It was a wonderful finale for a surfer who truly is going out on his own terms. His performance indicated he could clearly be a force on tour for years to come.

At the close of the NBA season, Kobe Bryant enjoyed one of the most memorable final games a basketball player has ever had. He exited the league with a 60-point effort in the presence of former teammates, current celebrities and what the Lakers hope are future stars. I watched that effort with my jaw dropped in what has to be one of the most surreal finales in sports.

This was a similar experience. Burrow said afterwards that it was one of the best heats of his career. With so much to talk about regarding his surfing career, this final heat will undoubtedly make the list. Just as he’s been one of the most progressive and imitated surfers for the better part of his life, Burrow made sure all eyes on him remained awestruck right up until his final moments.

The win for John John keeps him on track for a potential world title season after both Sebastian Zietz and Italo Ferreira experienced early losses in Fiji. There was the potential for Florence to be seen as the evil executioner as so many cheered on Taj, but the way each performed made the result of the heat moot. Burrow was outsurfed by pretty much the only person in the world who would have beaten him during that session.

The Fiji Pro should still get some remarkable heats with the fourth round set to begin today, but the week’s defining heat is probably in the rearview. Taj and John John found themselves in the right place to team with mother nature for a special experience. It’s a beautiful way to see Taj onto the next stage of his life and a moment of which any athlete dreams.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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