084: Taylor Knox/Evolution

Taylor Knox, Carlsbad, April 2019. Photo: Tozer

“I want to be the best 50 year-old surfer in the world”.

When you’ve reached the top, where do you go? It’s a question every athlete has to face, and it’s something that is developing into one of the key themes of the Looking Sideways podcast.

In Taylor Knox’s case, working out the answers to such fundamental questions has always been part of his modus operandi. Sure, he is famed as one of the most influential surfers of his generation, thanks to a style that redefined power surfing for a new generation, and two decades on the tour to his name. But really, Taylor’s story is one of evolution – both in and out of the water.

Photo: Tozer

The truth is that Taylor has applied the same incredible focus that enabled him to become one of the world’s most celebrated surfers to the mental challenges engendered by a life and career in constant flux. As he explained to me during our conversation, it’s the way he has dealt with every challenge he’s faced in his career, whether injuries or crises of a more existential nature.

In this conversation, recorded in Carlsbad in April 2010, we looked back at the entire story – about growing up as a member of the famed Momentum Generation, about learning to love surfing again in the face of shifting motivations, and about his surfing life today following retirement after twenty years on the tour.

My thanks to Taylor for a brilliant afternoon, and for sharing his story with me for the show. Listen to the episode below:

Show Notes

  • At home during the winter months.
  • Trips lined up.
  • Breaking routine after touring for 20 years
  • “I want to see people in the sport of surfing become really good humans”.
  • Passing on his knowledge to the surfing community.
  • 2020 Surf Summer Olympics.
  • Surfing in Chiba, Japan.
  • “If surfing starts to feel like a job, then you’ve got to change that”.
  • Memories of watching videos of Tom Curren.
  • The process behind making ‘Momentum Generation’.
  • Building trust with directors that come with a “dispassionate eye”.
  • 3000 hours of Taylor Steele’s archive footage and 500 lbs of video tapes.
  • The frankness of the interviews.
  • “It felt like we were competing against ourselves and no one else”.
  • Taylor Steele’s movies that brought the community together.
  • Dealing with the depression and realisation of the end of an era: “our worlds weren’t merging anymore”.
  • Discovering meditation 20 years ago.
  • Practising Kelee meditation.
  • Uncovering the roadmap to the mind.
  • “I think every parent’s dream is that your kids are going to be a little better than you”.
  • Making decisions from the heart, not the head.
  • How his meditation practice helped his surfing.
  • Wanted to retire in 2006 – but didn’t follow through straight away.
  • When he felt like he was “surfing for other people”.
  • Bonding with Mick Fanning.
  • Getting reinspired by surfing.
  • “I stayed in the game until I came to terms with what was bugging me about being on tour”.
  • Making peace with life decisions.
  • Age and surfing.
  • “There’s one thing you can’t buy in this world and that’s experience”.
  • Decision to retire and become a free surfer.
  • His surfing ambitions today.
  • Winning the ISA Games, his first WCT, winning the K2 Challenge, and coming second to Andy.
  • Taylor’s experience of Sailor’s nightclub in Cornwall.
  • Involvement with charities and organisations.
  • Taylor’s business pursuits.
  • The good and the bad side of surfing today.
  • The unequal distribution of money in surfing.
  • WSL’s new Commissioner Pat O’Connell.
  • Keeping on top of training.
  • The surfers who are exciting Taylor today.
  • The life skills learned from surfing.
  • Trip to Ireland with Mickey Smith and Ben Howard.
  • “Never get far away from the feeling you had when you first fell in love with surfing”.
  • The recent changes and closures in surf media.
  • The dangers with extremity, and how it’s affecting the surf industry.
  • Surfing is “half-truth, half-myth”.
  • “There’s a way to have everyone involved”.

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