Taylor Knox Interview

For the last five or so years, if you yelled, “Hey, Bonehead” within earshot of Taylor Knox, he would’ve no doubt turned around and said, “That’s me.” The loving yet jabbing nickname has stuck with Taylor Knox for the better part of the decade–half term of endearment, half negative bash for Taylor’s knack for making “bonehead” errors in heats. The past two years, however, have been kinder to Taylor. He’s surfing better than ever, smashing his competition, and smiling–a lot. He’s found a way to battle the little creature on his shoulder telling him, “Fall on this next wave,” “Take off on this shitty little one and lose the heat,” “Snake this guy and get an interference.” It’s not just contests, either. Taylor has found a balance in his life. He’s living for the moment and letting life lead him. This interview was done over lunch at The Pannikin Café in Encinitas, California on June 11, 2004.–Chris Coté

We talked a few months ago right before the tour started, and you seemed like you were really looking forward to the 2004 tour. How has the tour been treating you so far this year?

Taylor Knox: Well, pretty good. I mean, I feel like I’ve surfed better in the places I wanted to improve, like Tahiti and Fiji. I felt like I surfed better there, and that’s kind of my thing every year is to improve. If I don’t improve, I’m not enjoying myself, and then I get bored. So far I haven’t been bored at all. It’s been fun watching everybody surf, and I’ve been really inspired by learning not to blame my board or the waves for my performance. It’s all about me, which has been rad. I can always just point the finger back at myself if something goes wrong.

Does anyone still call you “Bonehead”?

Yeah, I think so. They probably do behind my back. I’m okay with it .

I don’t want to jinx you, but it seems like you haven’t been making those same errors that you’d become famous for.

No, I don’t think I’ve been making those same mistakes. In fact, I think I’ve been competing pretty good, and that’s what makes it so good that they call me Bonehead now. I think I was a little overly sensitive before, only because I probably deserved it.

So this is two years in a row that you’ve started really strong–you’re number six right now, I believe. As far as ratings and points, how do you feel you’re doing this year? Do you worry about that, or do you take it contest to contest?

The first time I even looked at the ratings was after Fiji. I had no idea. I really don’t keep track at all. As hard as I look at it–and I look at it really hard sometimes–I just don’t seem to move on that paper. I don’t really pay attention to it. I know I have to do good. I remember last year I got third in a contest, and this was after a couple good results, and I didn’t even move up in the ratings.

You’re thinking, “What’s going on? How do I add this up?”

Yeah, I’m like, all right, I guess it really doesn’t matter to look because I could finish really good and not move, or I could do just okay and all of a sudden I move up in the ratings. I don’t know how to figure the ratings out.

Everyone goes through peaks and valleys with careers and life. What would you say, in the recent past, has been your valley, and when was or when do you think your peak is going to be?

I’m actually trying to get out of the peaks and valleys. I’m trying to get life on rolling hills. That seems like a much easier way than to go up and down. I just want to live life on more of an even keel and have a good time. If you have super highs, you’re gonna crash.

I just want to eoy life and not be on a super high, because eventually you have to come down. I just want to be continually happy the whole time. If something really challenging comes up, I’ve always got myself and love around me with my friends and my family. Even if I’m having a hard time, it’s not like they’re (friends) gonna fix the problem, but at least they’ll be there to say, “Hey, you want to come over and have a beer and just chitchat?” It’s cool. And then everything seems to be a lot better after that.

Who’s your rock? The person or people you can really count on to be there for you?

It’s my kids. I take them to the contests and I’m in a heat and they’re building sandcastles. They’re just like, “Yeah, cool, Dad, we’re at the beach. Oh, you’re in a contest, that’s great, did you already surf?” They’re just like, if they see a starfish they’re gone, the heat’s completely whatever to them. To them, it doesn’t matter how I do. I remember bringing home a trophy last year, and it ended up in the backyard getting buried, so that puts things in perspective.

They know that you surf waves for a living.

Yeah, they know I go surfing, which is kind of odd because I don’t think there’re too many kids at their school who’s dads do that, or whatever. They’re still trying to figure it out. It’s an odd situation to be in. I can imagine that Tony Hawk or someone like that being your dad would be a lot more interesting.

Have you been partying a lot lately? Celebrating life?

I wouldn’t say I’ve been partying a lot, but I’m definitely open to a good time. It might be sitting on a plane meeting someone new or in Tahiti at sunset with a couple of friends, we jump in the water with canoes and go paddling or whatever–it’s wide open for me. My whole life is way more wide open. I’m not thinking I can’t do this because I’ve gotta save my energy for tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, I’ll deal with it.

Whereas before you were more serious.

I was more rigid. I was more like, “Stick to the plan.” Now, there really is no plan.

And now it’s translating to better surfing, better results, and an overall better life.

Yeah, that’s it. Because things never go as planned. That’s what having kids taught me. It’s better to be loose, and then when something flares up, you just roll with it. You’re planning on going to the park, and then they’re all like, “We hate the park. We want to go to the beach!” You’re just like, “Cool, all right.”

What’s your daily exercise routine, starting first with your mind and then your body and then into soul?

I take some time before everyone wakes up to clear my mind, like a short meditation. And that kind of clears things out. Like cleaning out the closet, you’re open to whatever comes your way and you’re there to live in the moment. Whenever I’m living in the moment, I have a good time. That’s when I surf my best, that’s when I have a good time. That’s when I enjoy other people the most. It’s not simple, it’s really not simple. It’s not simple to clean your mind out. To clean your brain out is not simple.

What does that take?

It takes a half an hour a day. There’re 24 hours in a day–if you can’t find 30 minutes, then you might be doing too much.

You had the “jock” tag for a while. Why do you think that is, and do you think you still have that?

I don’t know. I still wear my Padres hat everywhere. I’ve got my

friends who play for the Padres. It’s really fun for me to watch when you’ve got friends who play on the team. You’re just hoping that they’re in the lineup that day, and you’re like, “C’mon!” You’re rooting for them, it makes it more exciting. It’s a game, like surfing. You play to win, but it’s a game. Those guys, the guys in the marines or whatever, that’s not a game. That’s for real. That’s serious, and that should be noted as the most honorable thing that’s going on.

The beautiful thing about sports and about surfing is that it keeps you in the moment. When you’re watching an exciting game, you’re not thinking like, “Oh man, I’ve gotta go the bank.” It’s the only thing you can think about. That’s what’s insane about sports. And probably for those guys overseas, a lot of them probably live and die by how their team’s doing. They’re over there on the Internet listening or watching their teams. Same with surfing–I think that’s the addiction that everyone gets from surfing, that no one can get to them out in the water. No cell phones, nobody nagging on you. It’s kind of like you’re cleaning yourself.

Let’s just touch on that. Obviously everyone has an opinion about the war. What’s your brief stand on it?

I think my stand on it is that I don’t think it was a great idea to go in there. Saddam is obviously a very bad person. He did bad things, and it was great that we caught him, but now that whole place is in turmoil. Now what? And that’s like one issue. The other issue is there are a couple-thousand dead Americans, and every day there’re more. It’s completely unfair for these young guys to go over there. I don’t know if they believe in what they’re fighting for. I know they believe in the guy next to them, I know they believe in the United States, and I think it’s incredible that they’re there risking their lives, but it didn’t seem like good planning.

Who are you going to vote for?

Oh, I don’t know. I can honestly say it’s not gonna be Bush.

That’s a good answer. Skip back to the surfing side of things. Besides you, who do you think is capable of winning a world title within the next three or four years?

There’re a few guys. Obviously Andy and obviously Kelly. Those two you kind of think of first. I think Mick Fanning is an unbelievable surfer, one of my favorites. And Joel Parkinson. Dean Morrison seems like he could do it, like maybe he hasn’t had some of the breaks that the other guys have had. He already is and will be for years to come one of the top carving and power guys. That’s just his style. In the next few years I don’t know how he’ll do, but I do think Dane Reynolds has a really bright future. But I’m really stoked that he’s cruising, taking his time, enjoying being young, and going on all these insane surf trips. He wants to do the ’QS, but he’s not just going full-on. I just like the kid, he’s a good guy. Bruce has a lot of talent. Bruce, Mick, Joel, Dean, Dane–I threw Dane in there with some pretty heavy talent. He’s gonna have a few more extra years.

And what about yourself?

I definitely think I’m capable of it. I believe in myself. I believe that it’s definitely a possibility, and it’s something in the back of my mind that I’d like to accomplish. I mean, I’d be lying if I said I don’t care. I care, but I try not to care too much about the future because it doesn’t matter anyway. I care about being at the Pannikin right now.

Why do you think Dean, Mick, Parko, and Dane all say you’re one of their favorite surfers?

I don’t know. Why do you gotta ask me questions like that? It’s weird, like really weird. I never thought anyone would say that really. I just thought Kelly Slater was the best surfer to ever touch a board and that would b’re in the lineup that day, and you’re like, “C’mon!” You’re rooting for them, it makes it more exciting. It’s a game, like surfing. You play to win, but it’s a game. Those guys, the guys in the marines or whatever, that’s not a game. That’s for real. That’s serious, and that should be noted as the most honorable thing that’s going on.

The beautiful thing about sports and about surfing is that it keeps you in the moment. When you’re watching an exciting game, you’re not thinking like, “Oh man, I’ve gotta go the bank.” It’s the only thing you can think about. That’s what’s insane about sports. And probably for those guys overseas, a lot of them probably live and die by how their team’s doing. They’re over there on the Internet listening or watching their teams. Same with surfing–I think that’s the addiction that everyone gets from surfing, that no one can get to them out in the water. No cell phones, nobody nagging on you. It’s kind of like you’re cleaning yourself.

Let’s just touch on that. Obviously everyone has an opinion about the war. What’s your brief stand on it?

I think my stand on it is that I don’t think it was a great idea to go in there. Saddam is obviously a very bad person. He did bad things, and it was great that we caught him, but now that whole place is in turmoil. Now what? And that’s like one issue. The other issue is there are a couple-thousand dead Americans, and every day there’re more. It’s completely unfair for these young guys to go over there. I don’t know if they believe in what they’re fighting for. I know they believe in the guy next to them, I know they believe in the United States, and I think it’s incredible that they’re there risking their lives, but it didn’t seem like good planning.

Who are you going to vote for?

Oh, I don’t know. I can honestly say it’s not gonna be Bush.

That’s a good answer. Skip back to the surfing side of things. Besides you, who do you think is capable of winning a world title within the next three or four years?

There’re a few guys. Obviously Andy and obviously Kelly. Those two you kind of think of first. I think Mick Fanning is an unbelievable surfer, one of my favorites. And Joel Parkinson. Dean Morrison seems like he could do it, like maybe he hasn’t had some of the breaks that the other guys have had. He already is and will be for years to come one of the top carving and power guys. That’s just his style. In the next few years I don’t know how he’ll do, but I do think Dane Reynolds has a really bright future. But I’m really stoked that he’s cruising, taking his time, enjoying being young, and going on all these insane surf trips. He wants to do the ’QS, but he’s not just going full-on. I just like the kid, he’s a good guy. Bruce has a lot of talent. Bruce, Mick, Joel, Dean, Dane–I threw Dane in there with some pretty heavy talent. He’s gonna have a few more extra years.

And what about yourself?

I definitely think I’m capable of it. I believe in myself. I believe that it’s definitely a possibility, and it’s something in the back of my mind that I’d like to accomplish. I mean, I’d be lying if I said I don’t care. I care, but I try not to care too much about the future because it doesn’t matter anyway. I care about being at the Pannikin right now.

Why do you think Dean, Mick, Parko, and Dane all say you’re one of their favorite surfers?

I don’t know. Why do you gotta ask me questions like that? It’s weird, like really weird. I never thought anyone would say that really. I just thought Kelly Slater was the best surfer to ever touch a board and that would be it. I kind of didn’t pay attention to what other people were thinking for a long time. My influences were Curren, Carroll, and Occy. I didn’t join the air revolution until recently.

Yeah, what’s going on with Taylor Knox “The Air Guy”?

That’s what’s so epic about surfing. I’m just trying to get into airs more now. It’s so much fun for me. I have no regrets about not doing it before because it’s all new to me. Kids go flying over my head, and I’m just like, “Yeah, that’s insane! I want to do that.” I’m asking some sixteen year old, “How did you do that?” And they’re looking at me like, “Why are you asking me?”

Do you see new parts of waves now–not just a face to carve on?

Yeah. I’d say 50 percent of the time–where I used to just go for a big hack, now I’m going for an air.

How much would you sell your frontside carve for on eBay?

Dude, I’m giving that stuff away for free, are you kidding me? If anybody comes up and asks me, I’ll try to tell them what I know. I tell people it’s just practice–that’s all.

Tell me how to do your signature frontside carve.

I think you have to get really compressed, and it’s all set up by your bottom turn–a good bottom turn with speed. You’ve got to go flying into your turn compressed, and when you hit the curve at the top of the wave, that’s when you open up your body and push with your back leg. It’s all about timing. I wish Doug Silva was here to explain this because he is so good at it. The original Sparkletts man. You just open up your body, and it’s just this elephant turn, just aaaarrgh, you just let loose. And it’s kind of like after you do it you’re like, “God, that felt good!”

I know tour takes up a lot of your life, but have you been filming lately?

Yeah, the Al Merrick documentary’s coming out, and we’re gonna do a trip in the next couple weeks for that, somewhere south of the border. And then I’m starting another project, kind of my own thing in September. It’s gonna be backed by Op, which is really cool. It’s not gonna be like my last movie, which was a documentary on me and events in my life. It’s more gonna be just completely in the present. We’re not gonna cover anything that we covered before–that’s been played out. It’s gonna be a little more in my private life, which is what people want to see. Like the funny stuff that my friends make fun of me for, and maybe me going through a tough time during the year personally, and some lady in France telling me that I can’t have no cheese on my sandwich, different things like that.

Is it weird opening up your personal life? Because you’re a celebrity, do you ever feel like sometimes people prod too deep, or do you feel like your life is an open book at this point?

Definitely not an open book.

So you’ve got issues like everybody else?

Hell yeah. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right? My life is in a good direction right now, it’s really good, and if I expose myself like that, it would involve some other people’s lives, and that’s not fair to them. I don’t want to bring anyone else in. But mostly it’s really positive having gone through what the average Joe goes through. It’s just life, and I don’t try to run or escape from it in my surfing or my traveling–it’s just that I want to deal with things right away. I wasn’t that way when I was young. I could just leave and just brush it under the table. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to deal with it right as it comes up.

I’m kind of getting a slogan for your life out of all this. Is it “live for the moment”?

Definitely. That’s kind of how it works.

What are you gonna do for the rest of the day?

I’m gonna go practice airs .

CAPTIONS:

1.This is from the same session. I remember being super close to the boat–like ten feet away. I could’ve raced this section and jumped into the boat.

2.That’s my love triangle right there, the two most important people in my life. They can do nothing, and it will make my week. I love the way kids live in the moment and don’t dwell in the past. They don’t hold grudges like adults do.

3.Teahupo‘o, there’s been so much said about Teahupo‘o. I felt more confident there this year than ever. I had a good time then, even though the crowds were crazy. This was my first heat and a medium wave, but a really long clean tube. I got mesmerized in the tube and forgot to stall.

4.The right at Tahiti–we went there on a dinhy meant to carry two people, and we had eight people in it. Everybody’s passing us, waving at us, laughing, making fun of our little boat. We thought the boat was gonna sink. By the time we got there, everybody was done surfing–it was cool. Full turtle-and-the-hare race. It worked out good in the end.

5.I remember this wave–a bad day at Off The Wall. One of those days that look so good and beautiful from the beach, but, in a four-hour session, this was the only turn I did. Every wave was a closeout. Here we are pulling into closeouts being photo sluts. We were laughing. I would’ve been bronzing on the beach, but I forgot my Speedo at home.

6.The classsic Steve Sherman idea. Once he has an idea, he’s just like me–you can see he has a vision, so you just have to follow him down the road. He always comes through with the goods. He’s a crazy genius. I love his organizational skills. He’s a mess, but he always comes through.

Callouts

“If you have super highs, you’re gonna crash.”

“I wouldn’t say I’ve been partying a lot, but I’m definitely open to a good time.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I can honestly say it’s not gonna be Bush.”

“I’d say 50 percent of the time–where I used to just go for a big hack, now I’m going for an air.”

 

 

 

 

 

t. I kind of didn’t pay attention to what other people were thinking for a long time. My influences were Curren, Carroll, and Occy. I didn’t join the air revolution until recently.

Yeah, what’s going on with Taylor Knox “The Air Guy”?

That’s what’s so epic about surfing. I’m just trying to get into airs more now. It’s so much fun for me. I have no regrets about not doing it before because it’s all new to me. Kids go flying over my head, and I’m just like, “Yeah, that’s insane! I want to do that.” I’m asking some sixteen year old, “How did you do that?” And they’re looking at me like, “Why are you asking me?”

Do you see new parts of waves now–not just a face to carve on?

Yeah. I’d say 50 percent of the time–where I used to just go for a big hack, now I’m going for an air.

How much would you sell your frontside carve for on eBay?

Dude, I’m giving that stuff away for free, are you kidding me? If anybody comes up and asks me, I’ll try to tell them what I know. I tell people it’s just practice–that’s all.

Tell me how to do your signature frontside carve.

I think you have to get really compressed, and it’s all set up by your bottom turn–a good bottom turn with speed. You’ve got to go flying into your turn compressed, and when you hit the curve at the top of the wave, that’s when you open up your body and push with your back leg. It’s all about timing. I wish Doug Silva was here to explain this because he is so good at it. The original Sparkletts man. You just open up your body, and it’s just this elephant turn, just aaaarrgh, you just let loose. And it’s kind of like after you do it you’re like, “God, that felt good!”

I know tour takes up a lot of your life, but have you been filming lately?

Yeah, the Al Merrick documentary’s coming out, and we’re gonna do a trip in the next couple weeks for that, somewhere south of the border. And then I’m starting another project, kind of my own thing in September. It’s gonna be backed by Op, which is really cool. It’s not gonna be like my last movie, which was a documentary on me and events in my life. It’s more gonna be just completely in the present. We’re not gonna cover anything that we covered before–that’s been played out. It’s gonna be a little more in my private life, which is what people want to see. Like the funny stuff that my friends make fun of me for, and maybe me going through a tough time during the year personally, and some lady in France telling me that I can’t have no cheese on my sandwich, different things like that.

Is it weird opening up your personal life? Because you’re a celebrity, do you ever feel like sometimes people prod too deep, or do you feel like your life is an open book at this point?

Definitely not an open book.

So you’ve got issues like everybody else?

Hell yeah. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right? My life is in a good direction right now, it’s really good, and if I expose myself like that, it would involve some other people’s lives, and that’s not fair to them. I don’t want to bring anyone else in. But mostly it’s really positive having gone through what the average Joe goes through. It’s just life, and I don’t try to run or escape from it in my surfing or my traveling–it’s just that I want to deal with things right away. I wasn’t that way when I was young. I could just leave and just brush it under the table. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to deal with it right as it comes up.

I’m kind of getting a slogan for your life out of all this. Is it “live for the moment”?

Definitely. That’s kind of how it works.

What are you gonna do for the rest of the day?

I’m gonna go practice airs .

CAPTIONS:

1.This is from the same session. I remember being super close to the boat–like ten feet away. I could’ve raced this section and jumped into the boat.

2.That’s my love triangle right there, the two most important people in my life. They can do nothing, and it will make my week. I love the way kids live in the moment and don’t dwell in the past. They don’t hold grudges like adults do.

3.Teahupo‘o, there’s been so much said about Teahupo‘o. I felt more confident there this year than ever. I had a good time then, even though the crowds were crazy. This was my first heat and a medium wave, but a really long clean tube. I got mesmerized in the tube and forgot to stall.

4.The right at Tahiti–we went there on a dinhy meant to carry two people, and we had eight people in it. Everybody’s passing us, waving at us, laughing, making fun of our little boat. We thought the boat was gonna sink. By the time we got there, everybody was done surfing–it was cool. Full turtle-and-the-hare race. It worked out good in the end.

5.I remember this wave–a bad day at Off The Wall. One of those days that look so good and beautiful from the beach, but, in a four-hour session, this was the only turn I did. Every wave was a closeout. Here we are pulling into closeouts being photo sluts. We were laughing. I would’ve been bronzing on the beach, but I forgot my Speedo at home.

6.The classic Steve Sherman idea. Once he has an idea, he’s just like me–you can see he has a vision, so you just have to follow him down the road. He always comes through with the goods. He’s a crazy genius. I love his organizational skills. He’s a mess, but he always comes through.

Callouts

“If you have super highs, you’re gonna crash.”

“I wouldn’t say I’ve been partying a lot, but I’m definitely open to a good time.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I can honestly say it’s not gonna be Bush.”

“I’d say 50 percent of the time–where I used to just go for a big hack, now I’m going for an air.”

 

 

 

 

 

Is it “live for the moment”?

Definitely. That’s kind of how it works.

What are you gonna do for the rest of the day?

I’m gonna go practice airs .

CAPTIONS:

1.This is from the same session. I remember being super close to the boat–like ten feet away. I could’ve raced this section and jumped into the boat.

2.That’s my love triangle right there, the two most important people in my life. They can do nothing, and it will make my week. I love the way kids live in the moment and don’t dwell in the past. They don’t hold grudges like adults do.

3.Teahupo‘o, there’s been so much said about Teahupo‘o. I felt more confident there this year than ever. I had a good time then, even though the crowds were crazy. This was my first heat and a medium wave, but a really long clean tube. I got mesmerized in the tube and forgot to stall.

4.The right at Tahiti–we went there on a dinhy meant to carry two people, and we had eight people in it. Everybody’s passing us, waving at us, laughing, making fun of our little boat. We thought the boat was gonna sink. By the time we got there, everybody was done surfing–it was cool. Full turtle-and-the-hare race. It worked out good in the end.

5.I remember this wave–a bad day at Off The Wall. One of those days that look so good and beautiful from the beach, but, in a four-hour session, this was the only turn I did. Every wave was a closeout. Here we are pulling into closeouts being photo sluts. We were laughing. I would’ve been bronzing on the beach, but I forgot my Speedo at home.

6.The classic Steve Sherman idea. Once he has an idea, he’s just like me–you can see he has a vision, so you just have to follow him down the road. He always comes through with the goods. He’s a crazy genius. I love his organizational skills. He’s a mess, but he always comes through.

Callouts

“If you have super highs, you’re gonna crash.”

“I wouldn’t say I’ve been partying a lot, but I’m definitely open to a good time.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I can honestly say it’s not gonna be Bush.”

“I’d say 50 percent of the time–where I used to just go for a big hack, now I’m going for an air.”