Those who are opposed to the progressive school of longboarding must have never seen Taylor Jensen plow into a roundhouse or blow his tail out the back of a lip. Images of the progressive stereotype are populated by flicky little dudes spasmodically hopping and tapping their super lights across the face of a gutless little crumbler. No way. Jensen lays it on rail in critical sections, splays the closeout lip into shards, and often cross-steps to the nose to remind us where we’ve come from. He isn’t just longboarding; he is surfing in the classic sense with speed, power, and style. A big athletic regular foot whose size seems to require the extra length and whose electric stoke is obvious the second he pops up on his board; Jensen won the 2011 ASP World Longboard Championship after over a decade of relentless competing. Somewhere between the traditional and the innovative, his approach has a uniqueness that is lost on many longboarders. Individual style sometimes gets muddied as the board gets longer, but Taylor Jensen’s speed and power are evident a mile away.
Taylor Jensen was born March, 1984 in Lake Tahoe, California. After the family moved to Coronado, he started surfing at 6 years old but proved a bit timid on his first few rides. So his dad, Marty, began pushing him in a few feet from shore. It wasn’t long until he was catching his own waves and slowly progressing. At the same time, Jensen began following a path worn by his father as a star athlete. He showed promise in both basketball and baseball, making the Coronado Little League Majors All-Star Team.
But surfing became his sole (i.e. soul) calling as he moved into middle school. Jensen finished runner-up in his first surf contest in November of 1997. The same year, he found his first sponsor. At the time, he was following in the steps of other Coronado locals who surfed both long and short boards, but as a big guy who was finding success with the extra length and volume, the longboard became a more logical choice. He says, “Most people would say it is progressive. I do a lot of things on a longboard that shortboarders do.” Just watch Jensen carve across a meaty section, and you can see the shortboard aesthetic in his approach, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook that he’s burying an entire longboard rail like it’s a 6’0”.
He got his first job at Emerald City surf shop where he learned “perspective on how to sell clothes through (his) image.” By the time he was 17, Jensen turned professional. He graduated Coronado HS in 2002 and gave surfing his full focus. Once on tour, he quickly became a constant contender, actually remaining in the highly volatile top-10 from the time he started touring. However, the top spot continued to elude him. Meanwhile, he was traveling the world, competing in every capacity and venue that offered the money and exposure he wanted. He traveled from Australia, Hawaii, and Japan to Central America, Africa, and Europe. In his own estimation, Jensen has traveled to some 30 countries in his career. And as years went on and new tour formats whittled down the field of contestants, his ranking improved.
He moved to Australia which he calls “…just a magical place. The people are incredible, the waves are amazing…Australia is without a doubt home base for me and where I plan on settling down.” By 2003, Jensen began shaping and riding wooden Alaias and expanding his approach to surfing, but the world title remained just out of reach. For a decade, he hovered and scratched and fell just short of his goal. But in 2011, it all came to fruition on a beach near Levanto, Italy at the Bear Pro. In a final heat against Brazilian Kai Sallas, he took the 2011 ASP World Longboard Tour title. Although Sallas won the high-scoring final held in gutless 1-2 footers, Jensen had amassed the points needed for the title victory. Salas finished a close second. Jensen said, “I have been doing this since I was 17 and I’ve come really close before so finally to put it away is a good one for sure.” The following year, he proved his win was no fluke with a flawless showing in the 2012 ASP Australasia LQS by winning all three of the men’s events.
With sponsorship from Firewire surfboards, he designed two signature board models, one of which is an exact replica of his title winning board. Jensen still spends time in California and Australia and continues to compete. He has amassed several major titles. As of 2012, Jensen held 6 US National titles in addition to his world title. With both youth and experience still on his side, Taylor Jensen is sure to continue winning for years to come.