John John Florence just won his first world surfing title at the age of 24. Florence took out Kolohe Andino in their semifinal matchup at the 2016 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal. The only thing that could have stopped his coronation as world champ was if Jordy Smith outperformed him at the event, but Smith was unable to make the finals.
This is a huge day for the surfing world. The sport that originated in Hawaii now has a Hawaiian world champion for the first time since Andy Irons won the title in 2004. Florence has a ton of talent. He has been impressing since he was just out of diapers. To celebrate his accomplishment, here is a look back at Florence’s career and an early look at where he might rank among the all-time greats.
Florence rode his first wave when he was just six months old with his mother’s help. He was surfing on his own by the time he was five years old. Florence’s mother Alexandra was a strong supporter of John John. He grew up in their house just in front of Pipeline, one of the most epic waves in the world. The family didn’t have much money, and single-mom Alex had to take in boarders to make ends meet. These boarders were surfers, and they would greatly accelerate Florence’s surfing progress.
Florence was pushed into his first contest waves at the age of four. He was being towed into Pipeline bombs by the time he was seven-years old. When he was just 13 years old, he became the youngest competitor in the history of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, a series of three big-wave surfing competitions in Hawaii.
Results on Tour
Florence joined the tour at the age of 18 in 2011. His results came a little slow. He was ranked 34th in his first year on the tour. He jumped up to fourth place in his second year and was in the top ten the next two years. Last year, he took a step backwards, finishing in a disappointing 14th place.
Last year John John was entirely too focused on his most recent film View from a Blue Moon to pay enough attention to Competitive Surfing. John John was early on criticized for this as he seemed like he may be going down the path of Dane Reynolds who all too similar has been touted as one of the most talented surfers on the planet, but just could never seem to pull it all together with a Jersey on.
However this year on tour, John John has left little doubt in the minds of his peers as he showed laser focus to follow up early disappointing results and absolutely manhandle the second half of the season, starting with his win in Rio. He will certainly continue to put out the same insane video parts he always has, but it seems like more of his radical above-the-lip surfing will be exhibited where it counts; during his WSL heats. He has come into his prime, and he looks set to dominate the World Surf League for the next decade.
His Rank Among the Greats
Kelly Slater is undeniably the greatest surfer to ever compete on tour. He has won 11 world championships, and he plans to make a hard push next season to finish out his career with a 12th title. As dynamic as Florence is, his late start in winning his first title likely means that he will never match the dominating record of Kelly, especially with the fiery young talent to compete with in the likes of Medina and Toledo. He shouldn’t hang his head about that though, it becomes more obvious each year that with all the talent on tour, no one surfer will ever reign for as long as Slater.
That said, the young Hawaiian surfer named John John is the closest thing we have to a modern day Andy Irons, and it will be great to watch his career flourish. He now understands just what it takes to win a World Title, and now that he’s had a taste he’ll certainly come out swinging next year. Until then, it will be great to watch his victory lap at Pipeline in the final event of the season. We’re all certainly in for a show…