The American took advantage of a flurry of waves at Lower Trestles in San Clemente late in his second round heat to register a 9.57 - and win through to the third round.
"I have the most restarts in ASP history at this spot,” Knox said. “I don’t know how to explain it because I really love this wave and it doesn’t want to love me back. I guess it loved me today. Luckily today it gave me something at the end.”
Knox, 40, overtook John John Florence of Hawaii, who finished second in the heat, with his late show.
“I just go out there and stick to my own game plan,” Knox said. “It’s not like I’m going to pretend I’m going to out-air John John (Florence).
"He’s an amazing surfer and going to have a long career. He’s a phenomenal talent and it’s good for me to learn. I learn a lot from those guys and I’m stoked they’re around, they push me to be a better surfer too.”
Dane Reynolds, of California, used his power surfing to good effect to easily win his first round heat with a combined total of 17.36.
“I’m really stoked to be able to compete here,” Reynolds said. “I like this wave a lot and everybody gets to actually surf. It’s an easy wave to surf and this year, I’m just choosing events where I really like the wave. This is definitely one of them.”
Heat 1: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 13.20, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 12.04, Billy Stairmand (NZL) 10.63, Tim Reyes (USA) 9.67
Heat 2: Sebastien Zietz (HAW) 14.40, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.30, Evan Geiselman (USA) 13.33, Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) 11.40
Heat 3: Nat Young (USA) 15.94, Glenn Hall (IRL) 12.26, Travis Logie (ZAF) 12.07, Marc Lacomare (FRA) 7.53
Heat 4: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.70, John John Florence (HAW) 14.30, Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 14.17, Kai Barger (HAW) 6.62
Heat 5: Gabe Kling (USA) 15.80, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 15.00, Adrien Toyon (REU) 13.60, Jeffrey Lukasik (USA) 12.16
Heat 6: Cory Lopez (USA) 15.64, Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 12.87, Mitchel Coleborn (AUS) 10.67, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 6.93
Heat 15: Dane Reynolds (USA) 17.36, Mitch Crews (AUS) 12.87, Kai Otton (AUS) 11.90, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 10.46
Heat 16: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.17, Granger Larsen (HAW) 11.06, Luke Davis (USA) 10.94, Masatoshi Ohno (JPN) 8.47
Heat 17: Heitor Alves (HAW) 16.17, Conner Coffin (USA) 13.40, Nic Muscroft (AUS) 11.36, Alain Riou (PYF) 9.37
Heat 18: Daniel Ross (AUS) 12.50, Jano Belo (BRA) 11.44, Roy Powers (HAW) 7.20, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 5.50
Heat 19: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 15.44, Kiron Jabour (HAW) 13.00, Tim Boal (FRA) 10.74, Richard Christie (NZL)
Heat 20: Jay Thompson (AUS) 13.50, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 12.73, Shaun Joubert (ZAF) 12.37, Brian Toth (PRI) 12.20
Heat 21: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.93, Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 12.63, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 11.90, Dylan Graves (PRI) 9.67
Heat 22: Nathan Yeomans (USA) 14.70, Blake Thornton (AUS) 12.90, Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.87, Adam Melling (AUS) 9.80
Heat 23: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 14.03, Hank Gaskell (HAW) 12.67, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 9.27, Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 7.24
Heat 24: Michel Bourez (PYF) 17.87, Romain Cloitre (FRA) 13.17, Mason Ho (HAW) 11.87, Koa Smith (HAW) 9.80