North Devon native ups sticks to Ireland, builds house, puts body through the wringer, gets extremely kegged.
When it comes to underground, salt-of-the-earth, off-grid chargers, they don’t come much more off-grid than Taz Knight. His house on the coast of Ireland literally isn’t on the grid.
Originally from North Devon, Taz moved to the town of Bundoran a few years ago and began work on an abandoned property with sea views. Welcome to No. 1 Keggend, as it’s become known.
Taz’ll give you the tour. The film is by Clem McInerney, another stage 4 core-lord legend. It’s presented by Reef and Surfdome.
When not on the tools, Taz is generally spending quality time in the keg at one of Ireland’s famed big-wave haunts, or being flagellated by same, or dangling precariously off vert granite crags. He’s a man of the outdoors, an explorer in the best sense of the word, defying expectation and convention in pursuit of his own truth. We caught up with him for a quick pow-wow, discussed wipeouts, knee troubles, backside barrels, rock-climbing, DIY, and big-wave camaraderie.
All photos by Clem McInerney.
That made our knees hurt just watching! How are yours doing?
Haha yeah… My knees have taken a battering over the last 10 years. I’ve had 3 surgeries on my right knee. Slightly different injuries each time, including a blown ACL. But the yellow brace is to protect my cartilage. I have had 2 serious tears in my meniscus, which has been repaired but never properly healed. I’m wearing that full time now just so I don’t have to go through it again. A few months ago I tore the MCL in my left knee as well which was pretty frustrating. Luckily it was the end of winter and MCLs heal quick haha. But yeah, knees… bloody nightmare.
Your body’s undergone an impressive amount of punishment in the last few years. Is there a wipeout from the film that stands out as particularly bad? Can you describe it for us?
Funnily enough most of the wipeouts in the film were fairly tame in comparison to some I have had! Probably my worst yet was at Mully this winter on a big windy tow day. I had planned to take it easy with the wind the way it was. But then Cotty got me on a wave that lined up really nicely on the slab. I got over excited and faded deep. As I came off the bottom, I could see the lip getting blown by the wind and starting to throw a chandelier. I tried to take a higher line to punch through, but got blinded by the spray. I was hoping to carve back down and through the chandelier, but blinded as I was I ended up riding straight up and into the lip. The wave had just hit the slab at this point, so I knew I was in a bad spot. I got pinged up by the lip and freefell probably 10m from the roof. I landed pretty hard on my side, which winded me and gave me a mild concussion. I then got picked up by the wave and went back over the falls with the lip. This bounced me off the slab (insert lacerated hands and bruised hip) and rolled me over the ledge. There is a deep channel just inside the ledge at Mully, into which you often get driven fairly deep by the waves. This wipe out was no exception, so some nicely perforated eardrums were added to my list of ailments. All things considered, I got off fairly lightly! But it’s certainly a wipeout that will stick with me and gave me a firm reminder of what a dangerous wave Mullaghmore is.
There’s a preponderance of barrelling lefts in Ireland. You’re not averse to the classic pig dog but some of your best backhand barrels in the film are hands-free. What are the factors at play here, and what are the calculations determining your decision?
Oo good question… This is actually something I have had to think about a lot over my years here, and I actually think I finally figured it out this winter! Well… hopefully. The main factor at play is the speed at which the water draws off the slab. If the wave is drawing slow enough, you can go straight for a pig dog, set your rail and hold tight. Happy days. However, with super heavy slabs there is sometimes so much water drawing of the bottom that it’s all you can do just to stay in the trough of the wave! You’re not even thinking about coming out the barrel, it’s 100% focus on keeping the outside rail and nose from bogging. Pig dogging just puts too much weight on the outside rail. If you try bum dragging to counter this you mostly just end up in the lip. Anyways, it’s just a speed thing really. You have more control in a pig dog, but you’re way faster on your feet.
Who’s that on the ski with the high-5s at the end? It must be the best feeling, kicking out of one of the waves of your life and seeing your mate / safety partner waiting for you in the channel (or vice versa).
Yeah it’s really something else, some of my best big wave memories are being the guy in the channel high fiving your mates after an epic ride. It was Dylan Stott that day. We have shared some really amazing moments out there over the years and it was really special to come off the back of that wave and have Dylan there, frothing just as hard as I was. There was actually quite a crew in the channel for that wave, all local crew and we were just losing our shit haha. I’m pretty sure I got hugs and high fives off everyone. Very special moment.
What’s your usual safety and/or tow set-up?
We have a pretty good system out at Mully at the moment. There is a solid local crew of chargers and quite a lot of us are qualified safety drivers now! It’s all thanks to the work that Peter and Dylan have put in over the years with the Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club. Peter runs courses to get us trained up, and there is always a club ski at mully for us to use as safety. As a result, there is almost always a ski or two in the water, on which the crew will take turns driving. Visiting surfers can donate to the club as well which is really helpful to pay for fuel and repairs etc.
How’s 1 Keggend coming on?
Well… it’s getting there… slowly haha. But yeah I’m always making progress in some form or other, even if its just mental progress haha. I had a fairly good winter on it, but now I’m working again in the summer it’ll slow down. I finished making my hobbit-esque oval door (to match the Bag End namesake) recently, which was quite exciting.
Talk us through the transformation it’s undergone since you bought it. How long have you been on the tools now?
I got it back at the start of 2019. It had been abandoned, fully furnished, cloths in the draws etc; Everything rotted, no windows, no power or hot water, rotted floor joists and rafters. The roof was just salvageable which was a bonus. The end of that first winter camped out on the floor was pretty dismal it has to be said. The first couple years I was away a fair amount doing odd jobs and filming for our movie ‘Savage Waters’ (which should be out fairly soon!). But I still probably spent the majority of those years in the house working away. Since the start of 2021 I basically have been here working on it full time (alongside some surf instructing and stuff). It has come on a lot in that time and I’m now fully watertight and structurally sound and insulated. I should be getting connected to the grid soon as well which will be nice! Did someone say hot shower? Mmm yes please.
Any DIY advice for anyone thinking about undertaking a similar sort of project? Any major setbacks?
Phwoa… any advice for me? I still feel like I make mistakes all the time! I think the best advice for everything is just to go for it! It’s never as hard as it seems, and you can always bumble your way through in the end. Watch lots of YouTube videos, do trial runs, get as much advice as you can (it helps if your dad is a DIY god), make good plans and try think ahead as much as possible. Break it down into bite size chunks and try not to get stressed by the looming mountain of work you have to do. Did I mention YouTube? Oh yeah, and I watch loads of YouTube videos. YouTube.
Tell us a bit about the climbing… What appeals to you about it?
I got into climbing a few years ago when I was at Uni in Bristol. But I didn’t go crazy for it until I moved to Ireland and some mates of mine took me trad climbing. Trad climbing is like the ultimate combination of teamwork, adventure, athleticism, problem solving, headspace… I could go on. It just has a bit of everything! I think the appeal for me was the similarities with big wave surfing, but that I was a full-on kook. I have basically only ever been a surfer, so discovering a new sport and getting super hooked and being a frothing kook was just so exciting. It was like, oh shit – here is a crazy wild and scary adventure, with your pals, I’m not thinking about being good, or catching the best wave or getting a sick shot. It’s just pure, unadulterated, carefree adventure. I’m trying to take that mindset and apply it back into my surfing. It’s not ideal for my social media presence but who gives a crap? Not me that’s for sure!
Thanks for your time Taz! Loved the film and hope you’re on the mend.
Frothon and prosper xx