Chopper: Taj Burrow’s visual revolution.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick …

You hear that noise? That ain’t no time bomb, but make no mistake, it’s explosive. It’s the sound of Taj Burrow’s imagination.

“It wasn’t really my idea, I got it from Danny Way’s section at the end of The DC Video. Crazy airs from different angles. There’re so many sick ramps at home, and we nail so many huge airs, I just thought why not get a chopper and film it from a new angle.” BOOM! There you have it, straight from the mouth of last year’s World Number Three. Another one of those disgustingly simple concepts that only the geniuses among us seem capable of producing. A helicopter–of course, why not?

“But dude!” echo the screams of surfing’s past. “Warren Bolster was shooting from Huey’s before TB was a fertilized egg. Ted Grambeau, Sean Davey–they’ve been doing this shit for years, so don’t be all ‘TB’s got a new groove’ on my ass.’” Hey, no disrespect to the pioneers, they showed the way, but this is 2004. We got better equipment, more dynamic levels of performance, and an ex-Vietnam vet pilot who thinks Charlie does indeed surf. It all makes for footage and photos that certainly enter the realm of “never before seen.” So, excuse us, but the architect deserves praise, even if he believes he had little to do with it.

“There actually wasn’t much planning involved on my part,” declared TB. “There’d been some talk but not much had come together. Then straight after Brazil, Wheels (editor of Australia’s Stab magazine Sam McIntosh) called me and said it would probably be a good time to nail it. I’d had a horrible time in Brazil, so I was like, “F–k yeah, let’s do it!” It all came together perfectly, thanks mostly to Rick Rifici. He was amazing. He got the chopper and had a mate who could fly it. He got the photographers and the film guys all together. Snake (Jake Paterson) was frothing around on the ski. The surf was perfect, there was no one around. It was all pretty spur of the moment, but it came off better than anyone could believe.”

For two days TB and his standard 5’11″ Webber shortboard were whipped into perfect Supertubes (a shallow reef that on any given day can easily rip scalp from skull to feed exposed crayfish at low tide), while the chopper hovered above and the seven lensmen (three in the bird, one in the water, three on land) captured every moment of it. According to the man in the middle, “exhilarating” barely does the experience justice.

“When I was in the lineup and I heard the ‘whup, whup whup whup whup whoop whoopWHOOPWHOOPWHOOP’ coming over the hills, I fully started freaking,” recalls Teebs. “It was the sickest feeling ever, like I was surfing in front of 150,000 people or something. For two days we surfed perfect waves without one other person and filmed everything. I probably got 50 waves on the first day and 60 on the second. The pilot was going mad, too. He’d bring the chopper down so close and track along the waves with me. I didn’t really worry about flying into the blades or anything, but he was close enough so that I’d occasionally get blown off the wave.”

Watching TB flare below, it wasn’t long before the pilot also got a hankering for some real action. “Let’s have a go at some of these ourselves,” he was overheard yelling as he took the vehicle down to less than a few feet above the waves and skimmed through the lineup. It all got a bit much for photographer Dustin Humphrey, who shortly after requested a transfer to dry land, where fellow photographer Twiggy had been laughing at the loony chopper antics with his pegs planted safely in the sand on sweet, stable earth..

Despite these small hiccups, the pictures here prove that the documentation of the two days is astounding. Still, two questions remain–when are we gonna see the footage, and how much did all this frickin’ cost?

“Well, the footage is amazing,” starts TB with a sly laugh. “As well as digital, I think we shot fifteen rolls of sixteen-mil, and it’s a joke how good it is. From the air, the reef looks incredible. Looking down as you track through barrels and doing big airs is insane. It’ll definitely be the closing section of the next video we bring out (which TB assures will be this year), that’s for sure.”

And the coin? “Well, it all cost about fifteen grand, which mostly came out of my pocket, but indirectly Billabong will probably pay for a lot of it out of their video budget.”

So there you have it. Taj Burrow, the lord of flying, has redefined aerial surfing yet again. But what’s next? What could he possibly have up his sleeve after this? Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick … does that answer your question?–Vaughan