20 Years On Tour With Taylor Knox
The Pipe Masters may be Knox's last event as a World Tour surfer… but don't worry, those power hacks will continue.
At 41, Taylor Knox is the oldest guy on tour. Don't let that fool you for a second, because he also has the meanest, most powerful lip blast and cutback. He may also be the most fit. This year, Knox is sitting at number 31 in the World Tour rankings coming in to Pipe, and will need a huge result to keep his spot on tour. It sounds like either way this will likely be his last event as a World Tour surfer. If it is, it'll be the end of an era and an incredible run that started with the Momentum crew and Taylor on the WQS back in 1992. 20 years. For Knox fans—and there seem to be more than ever these days—don't worry, either way you'll get to see him surf a ton next year, which is good news. We sat down with Taylor a few days before the Pipe window to check in. —Casey Koteen
With your historic tenure on tour there's a lot to talk about. First off though, do you know what you need to get at Pipe to keep your spot on tour?
No, I don't really know.
This is obviously something you've given plenty of thought to though, yeah?
Yeah, it's hard to explain. I've been on tour longer than anyone ever, and now there are some opportunities for me to do some pretty cool projects next year. They're the kind of projects that I haven't been able to do because the tour takes up so much of your time. I obviously want to do really well at Pipe—I expect to do well at Pipe. The tour is great, but if I don't make it I'm not too stressed about it.
I want to do some movies, travel and go on good surf trips, but with four of my best friends, not 40 [laughs]. I'm definitely going to miss the level of surfing on tour, but I still have my friends to go surf with, and they happen to be some of the best surfers in the world. There's never been an issue with laziness or getting better at surfing, that's always been the goal for me. Maybe I focus too much on that rather than being a better competitor.
I love surfing, and my plans for next year will be like what Rob [Machado], and Dorian and my other peers have been doing for ten years. The only guy that's still on tour from our original group is Kelly. If it wasn't for Mick [Fanning] being on tour I probably would've got off tour before. But we're such good friends and his surfing is inspiring, it made it fun again. And then getting on Rip Curl was a huge inspiration, to do well in contests. And now talking about some of these projects, they're pumped and I have their support. But if I do well at Pipe and I qualify, that's another discussion.
Right, so you've talked about what life off tour would look like. What if you do well at Pipe and do get a spot?
I don't know… people have approached me with some great ideas that I want to be a part of. So it's like a new career, and I've always been in to making video parts and movies, I'd love to get back in to that. And to surf places I've never been. It'd be cool for people to see me surfing somewhere they've never seen me at. I guess I'm lucky because people still like to see speed and power, so there's a place for it. So, if I make it, I guess I'll make that decision at the party afterwards [laughs].
Also, there may be some changes to the tour next year, there's talk of a new stop, and some other question marks.
It might be a strange year for the tour. So that's another thing I think about, if I want to spend an entire year on, it could be a lull in between. Nothing is going to happen because the new company isn't going to change anything until 2014, they're just going to observe for a year.
So you began doing the WQS in 1992, and have been on tour since except for one year. What's one of your best memories over these last two decades?
There are so many of them, but winning in Brazil was great, that's a highlight. Another is when we were in Fiji for the contest, and me, Kalani Robb, Kelly, Rob Machado, Dorian, and Pat O'Connell, during the finals we snuck around the other side and got the right. It was one of the best sessions of all of our lives, one of those days you'll never forget. Doing the recent Momentum reunion trip was amazing. We figured out that we'd never all been on the same trip together, even though we'd all been together in the same movies. And just being part of that Momentum crew, it's been a lifetime of inspiration. And then Mick and Joel coming up, that's been a second round of inspiration. Another highlight would be the first year at J-Bay, dreaming of going there and then making the finals with Kelly, that was big.
Well whatever happens at Pipe, I think you need to come back and give some mandatory power clinics to the tour.
I'm just glad people appreciate it. I've had more support recently than I ever got in my earlier career, I'm a little baffled. But maybe it's because there are so many guys doing great airs now and everyone can do them—except me—that the standard stock air reverse hardly matters now. But the one thing some of them can't do yet is powerful, smooth surfing, and that just comes with timing. I grew up idolizing Tom Curren, he was my hero and still is.
Talking about support, I think that semi finals heat you had with Kelly at Lowers five or so years ago where you got that ten had to be the loudest I've ever heard a crowd cheer at a surf contest.
Yeah I could've won that heat and all I had to do was complete that next wave, but I fell just going down the line. But those moments you never forget. Oh, making my movie Arc was another true highlight. Having a signature movie was always a dream growing up.
You've got a ton of fans, so whether you're on tour or off I'm betting we'll all still get to see you surf a ton, maybe more, which is awesome.
Yeah, there's no doubt. The word retirement isn't the right one, I'll still surf in select events like in Hawaii and Trestles. I'm going to Puerto Rico with Rip Curl for the four star down there, as well. I love Puerto Rico, so that'll be cool. Another highlight would be the Search contest in Mexico, way up there. Being in the final at J-Bay with Kelly, and the finals in Mexico with Andy. Those were the best waves I've ever seen for a contest.