Friendly and durable regularfooter from Carlsbad, California; world-ranked #4 in 2001, winner of the 1998 K2 Big-Wave Challenge, and, along with world champion Sunny Garcia, the most accomplished power surfer of his generation. Knox was born (1971) in Thousand Oaks, California, grew up in Oxnard, began surfing at age eight, and moved with his family to Carlsbad at 13. At 15 he had emergency spinal surgery to repair a vertebra damaged years earlier in a skateboard accident, and spent six months in a chest-to-thigh plastic wraparound body brace. Knox made a full recovery the following year, and finished fourth in the men's division of the 1990 World Amateur Surfing Championships.
Over the next few years, the thick-chested Knox (5'10", 170 pounds) set himself apart from the Kelly Slater—led New School surfers by focusing on deeply set turns and cutbacks rather than aerials and tailslides; at times he seemed to be a throwback to '80s power surfers like Richard Cram and Gary Elkerton. "It's a hard, efficient, uncompromising style," two-time world champion and fellow power monger Tom Carroll said of Knox, "and I sometimes find myself wondering, How many G's is Taylor pulling out there?"
Knox was occasionally spoken of as a world title contender, but he was inconsistent on the pro circuit, going from 24th as a rookie in 1993 to fifth in 1995, then dropping to 35th in 1998 and failing to make the cut for 1999. Requalifying in 2000, Knox finished 28th, shot up to fourth in 2001, then dropped to 25th in 2002. After bouncing back to seventh in 2003, he settled in as a middle-of-the-order pro, though with a nearly unmatched longevity. In 2011 he became the first 40-year-old to compete at an elite level; the following year the 41-year-old Knox notched his 20th and final season on the pro tour.
Knox won the 1995 Professional Surfing Association of America tour, and led the American team to a win in the 1996 World Surfing Games, finishing first in the men's division. He also snatched up the winner-take-all $50,000 K2 Big-Wave Challenge in 1998 (the precursor to the Billabong XXL Awards), given to the paddle-in surfer photographed on the largest wave of the year. Knox's wave, caught at Baja's Todos Santos, was estimated to be 52 feet.
One of the most photographed and filmed surfers of his generation, Knox starred in Arc (2002), a surf video biography, and has appeared in more than 40 other surf videos, including Momentum II (1993), What's Really Goin' Wrong (1995), The Show (1996), No Destination (1998), Shelter (2001), Campaign (2003), and Thread (2007), A fitness fanatic, Know released a workout DVD, Surf Exercises in 2009.
Knox finished runner-up to six-time world champion Kelly Slater in the 1998 Surfer Magazine Readers Poll Awards. In April 2001, the blond-haired, square-jawed Knox was featured on the cover of Men's Journal magazine. Knox was inducted into the Surfer's Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach in 2011.