There’s an old Irish blessing—and isn’t there always?—that goes something like: May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow, may the soft winds freshen your spirit, and may the sunshine brighten your heart.

 

When Taylor Knox began putting together plans to gather of few of his favorite people—including longtime friend and award-winning English musician Ben Howard, as well as filmmakers and photographers Mickey Smith and Jon Frank, Ben Skinner, and cinematographer Paul Daniels—in Ireland, he surely was hoping some Irish luck and fair weather might greet them at the Cliffs of Moher.

 

But Irish Luck is a fickle mistress, and instead of soft winds, sunshine, and raindrops falling lightly upon visiting brows, the group was met by one of the largest storms in years, gale-force winds, hail, and endless squalls of sideways rain. But for Knox, the storm’s silver lining was right in front of him, in the smiles of the beautiful individuals he’d brought together, and in the conversations, beers, and songs they’d share over the week together.

 

We caught up with Knox to chat with him about his time on the Emerald Isle, and those with whom he was lucky enough to share the experience.

Knox & Howard
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AG: It looks like you all had quite the trip. You were able to bring such an eclectic group together, with Ben [Howard] and the whole crew. And then getting Mickey [Smith] and Jon [Frank] shooting again. How’d the whole thing come about?

 

TK: I was in England last June. Ben and I have been friends for a long time, and he was coming back from a festival. I was only in town for, like, 36 hours, and I was heading to the airport, driving on the freeway. We were talking on the phone, and he was like, “Fuck, I want to hang out. Are you on the M-5?” And I said, “Yeah.” He was like, “We’re going to pass each other! Let’s get a coffee somewhere, and try and catch up!”

 

So we were sitting there and he said, “Gosh, we need to do a surf trip.” Ben’s so busy, so I told him, “Hey, give me your schedule and let’s go somewhere like Ireland, just to see how it goes.”

 

And then we got Johnny [Jon] Frank to come, which was really special. And Mickey Smith, Paul Daniels. The trip was ridiculous. Everyone was flying in from all over the world, we looked at the weather maps and they were calling for the biggest storm they’d had in years. We were like, “Are we still going? Are we literally going to go into this right now?” But we didn’t really have a choice. We just went, “Well, let’s see what happens.”

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It looked, well, um, challenging.

 

We were supposed to be there for seven days, and at the seven-day mark, we had two or three shots, period. And I was like, “Well, we’re not going to make anything with this!” So I got everyone to change their tickets and stay an extra two days. And everyone did, and it paid off, because that’s when we scored waves.

 

But there wasn’t a session that didn’t have pouring-down, sideways rain. There was a spot where the wind was 80 mph. It was ridiculous. It was the craziest trip. But at some point, it just became funny. We all got along so well, no one got eggy, and we kept looking at each other, thinking, This is ridiculous, why are we here? [Laughs] And the people we’d meet would ask us, [Laughs] “What are you doing here?”

 

We were like, “We’re making a short film!” And they’d say, “Of what, the pub?”

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Seems like the weather didn’t dampen the group’s spirits, and in true Irish spirit, you made the most of it.

 

My best tool is putting together the chemistry between people. I think about people who haven’t met each other, and about who would work well together. I want it to be fun for everyone, not just the surfers.

 

I wanted to get Mickey [Smith] behind the camera again, because I’d always admired his work so much. I’d never worked with Mickey before. I knew him through Ben’s band [Mickey plays guitar with Howard], but I had always been just a huge fan of his work. He doesn’t really shoot much anymore, but I told him, “Why don’t you just come and hang out with your friends anyway. Just come along on a surf trip with your buddies, and if you want to take some photos, that’s great.”

 

And then Jon [Frank] has such a unique eye, and sees things so differently. Teddy Grambeau told me, “Jon and I can look at the same thing, and he’ll see something totally differently. He has one of the most unique eyes I’ve ever seen.”

 

But they’ve been doing other stuff. They’re so talented, that you can’t pigeonhole them as surf photographers or filmmakers. I wanted to get guys like them back behind the lens, and back in the water, doing something around surfing.

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Had you spent much time in Ireland before this trip?

 

This was my second time there. I went over with Mick [Fanning] when he was filming Missing with Taylor [Steele]. But we didn’t get any waves. None. Totally skunked. We didn’t do any surfing at all.

 

But this trip was gnarly. We got waves, but we had to do a lot of traveling. We were stuck in that van for days. Just crammed in there, sitting under boards, soaking wet. I’ve never worked harder on a trip. Where we wanted to surf—which was Aileen’s and around there—it was just completely blown to shit.

 

I had one pair of pants for three days. We were all walking around our hotel in our underwear because our pants were on the heater in the room drying. Funny shit was going on. It was such a great trip, because everyone got along so well and made the most of it. In Ireland, if all else fails, you’re into a pint of Guinness and you’re alright [Laughs].