John Florence is cursed. Cursed by all the terrible possibilities that face a prodigy of his mould. Possibilities like world domination. His style is totally raw and uncoached! Can you believe it? He learnt it all on the North Shore, too, felt it out on the sand of Ehukai, then took it over to the reef at Pipe. And the skating helped, especially with the tech. “He’s so comfortable being upside and inverted from skateboarding that it’s difficult to even comprehend what he’s doing,” says fellow WT-rookie, Kolohe Andino. “He’s so technical and comfortable in such awkward positions.” John just won the Billabong Pro, Rio via a collection of dazzling moments, like dragging his kicker through an impossibly small backside barrel, a frontside tube-to club sandwich combo and the event’s biggest air (a backside full-rote). With one Triple Crown in the bag (probs more to come) and a maiden WT victory freshly in pocket, John’s on track to be Hawaii’s best-ever surfer. When Stab dialled, John was in California before heading home for a week then flying into Tavarua (amazingly, for his first-ever trip to Fiji). We discussed not being in control of heats, a preference for backside airs and being (happily) made to stay in Rio for celebrations.
Stab: Can you describe for me, what it’s like going through the last coupla rounds? Is it kinda blurry?
John Florence: It doesn’t really blur, actually, ’cause I think carefully about every heat that goes by. It’s a total step-by-step. I didn’t feel in control of any of the heats I surfed on the last day. On the WT, every heat you have is the scariest heat ever. I was going out there, not thinking about it as a heat. It ended up working out. You freesurf, but kinda with a heat strategy at the same time.
On finals day, you stitched up each of your heats within 10 minutes of the first buzzer. My last three heats all went similarly. I went out there with more of a game plan than I’ve ever had before. Usually I go out there and just try to get two good waves in 30 minutes. This time, I was trying to get one good one in the beginning, then back it up as quick as I could. Kinda ride a little wave of momentum after a good one. But, sometimes you’ll try and do that and you won’t get another wave for 15 minutes. It always changes. I won those last heats within the first coupla minutes, but I had that three-man heat earlier in the event where I won in the last four seconds. It all depends.
Tell me about that opening full rote in the final. At home (in Hawaii), we have the wind that blows from the west all day long, so we’re always trying airs into it. The waves for the contest were a lot like Ehukai, a beachbreak in front of my house. So, I knew the little wedges were out there and I was wanting to get a section really badly. With airs like that, you’re in control, watching the whole way, looking at the landing. You’re twisting your head all the way around and your body just follows. It’s the same motion with backside airs and with alleyoops. It seems like every time you’re coming around, you can see the landing. I’d definitely rather try a backside air in a heat than a frontside air. You’re more in control of it and you can see where you’re gonna land, rather than just flying blindly like you would a frontside air. I also I like the motion of it better.
“I’d definitely rather try a backside air in a heat than a frontside air.” – John Florence
So then, are you more comfortable in lefts? No, not at all. I love going right and I love going left. I actually go through phases of things, where I’ll just wanna go left for a week straight, then I wanna go right. I just back and forth.
It used to be that rookies would kinda take a while to feel things out, but you and Gabriel Medina don’t seem to have that mental structure. Me, Gabriel, Miguel and Kolohe, we’ve all watched the Danes, the Jordys, the Kellys. You learn a lot from watching those guys. Then, everyone starts doing QS’s a lot younger nowadays. So I think it’s watching Jordy, Dane and Kelly on the WT, and then trying to go and do that in a QS basically. Then by the time you get to the WT, you’ve learnt a lot. But then, when I got on the WT halfway through last year, I feel like I had to learn everything all over again. It’s a whole different ball park.
The beauty of what you do is that you look to have no rules. You’ve rewritten em. Every heat is with one of the best surfers in the world. It’s full of surprises.
Gimme a play-by-play, after winning a contest, from podium to bed? I went back to my hotel room and my phone had a bunch of texts from home, from friends and family, so I called them first, my mum and my brothers. When I got back to my room I was really tired, y’know, I was overwhelmed from everything. So I rested, I took a nap and hung out in my room for a coupla hours. We had a pool downstairs so afterwards, I went down and did a bunch of interviews by the pool, with lots of local media. After that… it was funny, y’know, I thought everyone was leaving Brazil early, so I was gonna get outta there. Then when I got down to the pool, Yadin (Nicol), Kerrzy (Josh), Occy and all those boys were down there having cold beers. They were like “Nope, you’re not leaving.” I was like, fuck… (laughs). So I changed my plans and we ended up having a really fun time. We went out to dinner at a Churrascaria with the sickest crew, maybe 20 of us. It was all the guys I said just before, plus the Hobgoods, Freddy P(atacchia), (Brett) Simpo, the Gudangs and more. We got all the tables in the restaurant and put them into a big U shape, so everyone was facing everyone. Then we went out to a bar, everyone was drinking, it was really fun. Such a great night. – Elliot Struck