Poor Specimen Premieres Arc

I left last night’s premiere of Arc at the La Paloma theater in Encinitas with a greater appreciation of Taylor Knox and his surfing ability.

Kids used to the tail slides and airs found in the typical surf vid were confronted with something unfamiliar in Arc: honest-to-god power. Knox’s surfing is all about the arc of rail-to-rail turns and the video does a great job driving that point right between your eyes. In typical Poor Specimen fashion, the action is fast-paced and tight, focusing on the technical and cropping in to focus on the surfer and not the wave.


During the Trestles segment there were so many “oohs” and “aahs” that I could have sworn the audience was watching a fireworks display. The film captures several recent Knox sessions in Australia, Barbados, and Baja, but Trestles is probably the highlight of Arc — along with a Baja mysto spot that looked like a makeable version of Cylinders in Newport Beach.

However, is Arc the definitive Taylor Knox story? One hopes not. As a solid surf video it scores on most counts — it will certainly get you amped to surf — but as a profile it poses more questions than it has answers.

The video, part of the new signature series of films by Poor Specimen, is billed as “a film that takes an intimate look into the story behind the life of Taylor Knox.”


On some counts it hits that mark nicely. We learn about the auto accident in front of the Oxnard Airport that Knox endured as a kid that left his face badly scarred. We hear about a skateboarding accident that really should have crippled him when he was an early teen. We get to see the amazing 1998 footage of Knox’s paddle-in 50-footer at Todos Santos that nabbed him 50,000 dollars from the K2 Challenge, and hear from Knox himself about what drove him that day.

We learn that Knox likes to train and does yoga and has kids.

All of these sections are supported with narrative from Knox’s parents, childhood doctor, and from a host of famous-friend cameos from the likes of Mike Parsons, Rob Machado, Brad Gerlach, Ross Williams, Dan Malloy, and more.

But the tone of these comments are uniformly respectful and almost too reverential — more wake than roast. There’s not a single funny “remember when” story that would have brought Knox to life (come on Gerr!). The closest we come are the comments from Padres closer Trevor Hoffman (a dedicated surfer himself) who talks about Knox’s surfing, but not his passion for baseball.

Knox is also a competitive animal, with three top-ten WCT finishes in the 90s and a fourth-place finish last year. At 31 years old, Knox has been on the tour since 1990 and remains a title threat (he’s currently 21st in the ratings). But nowhere in Arc does Knox talk about his decade following the CT circus or what it’s like to come within a hair of winning the world title or what the future might hold. In fact, after watching Arc, you’d hardly know he was a ‘CT surfer.

These are hardly criticisms of Knox. On the contrary, after watching him surf, I really wanted to know more about what makes him tick. I just didn’t find the answers in the video. Ultimately, Arc lets Knox’s surfing do the talking and it speaks eloquently about who he is and what’s important to him. And for the typical surf-video consumer, that’s probably what’s most important.


Arc is available on VHS and DVD. For more information on the video and future premieres, go to poorspecimen.com.