After 22 years on Tour, Taylor Knox hung up his singlet at the Pipe Masters and effectively retired from professional surfing. Regarded as one of the most powerful surfers of all time, Knox’s prowess among his peers was second to none. After surfing his final heat, we spoke with Knox to find out what his next chapter will entail, what he’s going to miss most about the Tour, and where he thinks professional surfing is headed.
So how long have you been planning on retiring? Was your decision to step back from the Tour in the works for a while or was this tied to not requalifying?
I didn't want to say anything earlier in the season, but yeah, I was planning on making this my last season for some time. I'd been in talks with my sponsors for a while, but I didn't want to come out and announce my retirement or anything during the season because I didn't want to take anything away from the way I competed. But it's been a great run and the Tour has been really good to me. There are a lot of projects I have lined up that I’m really looking forward to.
So what's next then?
We're working on recutting a new version of ARC, and I've got a trip to Africa planned that I'm really excited about. I'm also going to continue doing a few select events here and there. I'll be working with Dragon some more for the School of Hard Knox power surfing clinics I do. Those are always a ton of fun. And in between all of that, I'll be filming and doing some work with Rip Curl's Rubber Soul project. So I think I'll be as busy, if not busier, than I was on Tour.
After more than two decades on Tour, do you have a favorite moment? Was there a time or an event that you look back on and say "Wow, that was something I'll never forget?”
Yeah, definitely. I think about the Search event in Mexico all the time. I've traveled a lot and I've never seen waves like that. Ever. We literally had six days of the best waves in the world and I was fortunate enough to be there in the Final with Andy at that event. I'll never forget that one. There was also the Final with Kelly at J-Bay in '96 that really sticks out in my mind. There were a lot of great memories for sure.
What do you think you're going to miss the most about the Tour?
My friends on Tour. I'm really gonna miss Mick, Kelly...the people you meet every year on the road. I'll miss winning heats and the good waves. Tahiti, Trestles. Yeah, Trestles is gonna be a hard one for me because I live right there, so to know that it's going on and I won't be competing in it will feel a little surreal.
Switching gears a bit, I know that you've seen the Tour change so much in the two decades you've competed on it. With ZoSea Media taking control of the media rights of it and effectively altering much of the way things are run, do you think the future of professional surfing is in good hands?
I do. I think this is actually going to be a great thing for professional surfing. I fought for it and I'm confident that this group will be able to do things for the Tour that they couldn't do before. By bringing it to a mass market, we'll be able to add some more professionalism to pro surfing and take care of the surfers more. With things like the pension plan, the surfers will be taken care of--like other professional sports--when they leave. A lot of the guys that were on Tour and really helped shape the sport were sort of left on their own when they retired in years past. And to be able to give so much to the sport and not have it help take care of you when you retire...that just doesn't seem right to me.
There seems to be a resurgence of power surfing lately. A few years ago, it seems like progressive surfing was defined solely by what guys were doing in the air. But recently, it seems like to be at the front of the pack, you have to be able to punt, but you also have to be a power surfer and know when and how to lay it on rail. Is that something you'd agree with?
Totally. I completely agree and I think it's great. The best guys now are amazing in the air and they're also really powerful as well. They're just really well-rounded surfers.
Do some of the younger guys on Tour ever ask your advice about rail and power surfing? Or do people sort of keep to themselves about stuff like that at the World Tour level?
Yeah, a few different people have come to me to ask a few questions here and there. I'm totally open and will tell them everything I know. But I would never offer up advice to someone who didn't ask. I can't stand it when people do that to me. But yeah, I love to pass on what I know. The School of Hard Knox that I help with is a great way for me to teach young surfers what I know because they're all so keen to take in everything. I love doing those events.