Taj Burrow -- such a cheeky little chappy; such a cheerful, chubby, high-performance cherub; such a beacon of light and spirit in the often lugubrious world of competitive surfing.

For eighteen years he has plied his noble trade within the Association of Surfing Professional and then the World Surf League, winning rookie of the year in '98, twice finishing runner-up, only thrice finishing outside the top 10 (rookie season, the shortened season of 2001, last year when he missed two events). Mostly he has finished in the top 5, and along the way he's accrued 11 event victories. In the pantheon of greats never to have won a world title, Taj is perhaps the greatest.

He has become part of the furniture. But there comes a times when even the comfiest, most beloved of sofas becomes a little worn and creaky and needs replacing, sentimental value notwithstanding. That's not to say he's not capable of sticking around on tour for another few years -- far from it -- but Taj has decided the time is now. On a day when Kelly Slater was knocked out in Round 2 for the second time in three events, in a year when Mick Fanning is taking half the season off and the leaderboard looks shaken up like an exotic cocktail, Taj Burrow announced he will retire from competitive surfing after the Fiji Pro. Last year he became a father. A cheerful, chubby cherub of his own and a comfortable sofa beckon. He will be missed.

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