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Exclusive: John Florence

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.

John arrived early for the Telstra Drug Aware Pro, Margaret River. He surfed North Point for the first time and hucked airs like this oop. Then he won the event. Photo: Lauren Trickett

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.

Stab was batshit crazy not to put this Japanese huck on a cover. Sorry John. We challenge you to find a higher slob that's been landed. Photo: Nate Lawrence

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

It's not until you look at the ASP world tour schedule that you realise how John John is such a threat. He's yet to surf Cloudbreak but will certainly handle himself in the tube. He's just arrived home from Teahupoo and will dominate there. The shifty and peaky caves of Hossegor and Supertubos are perfect for him. And then there's his homebreak of the Pipeline. Oh. God. Here he rides the lightning in Japan. Photo: Nate Lawrence

  • Bobby Dazzler

    “probs” kicker” “rote”
    You’re one gnarly dude author.
    I think you forgot “huck”

    • STABmag

      Nup, we got all the cliches. You missed huck in the Japan slob caption. Ooowweeeee!

    • Jimmy


    • miike spatthews

      a write on 2 jon and you forgot to add “truck” as well.

  • Dirk

    How many coins you reckon O’neill are hoarding for the re-sign. Cheque books will be a flappin’ soon.

  • twojohns is worth than one

    There is a bidding war happening. His contract isn’t up till next year but Oniell want him but can’t afford both Jordy and him. Hurley want him,, Billabong want him too. No word from Nike but at least they could afford him.

    • Johnny

      Stop acting like you have the inside goss on anything. You dont reckon it is obvious that every brand wants him?

    • stu

      he’ll probably stay with Oneill due to family/friend personal ties.

  • Johnny

    Medina is Brazilian… Yuck.

  • stu

    don’t let the booze get to you john john

  • surf nurse

    Hey Bobby dazzler they couldn’t use busted hinge, sore wing, what sort of sleigh he rides and my person favourite “stomp one of these Honey”.

  • Spanky

    Where was “air-revs”? It’s my fave


    Great interview except the overhype with ‘on track to be hawaii’s best ever surfer’…That one jumped the gun Bro; it’s way too soon to tell. What I can tell is Andy Irons will be hard to top. Review the stats. Now, to be clear… it’d be insane if John John were to top 3 World Titles, 3 Pipe Masters, 4 Triple Crowns, 20 elite tour victories, plus surpass the greatest rivalry in surfing history AI had with Slater. But frankly, its not likely. ps. I hope Im wrong.

    • dane

      You´re making a huge statement too early. I´m not saying J.J. will top what A.I. did, but by the way he’s surfing (and the difference he has with most of the WT guys) if he does not top what A.I. did, he will write long pages of history no a doubt about that.

    • Aidan

      Only 3 world titles, 3 pipe masters, 3 triple crowns, and 19 elite tour victories to go…

  • simon

    4 pipe masters it is actually

  • Mik

    John John is so massively talented, and cool… Add in his love of charging big waves and it’s hard to understate how far he can go, even this year! I hope he stays with O’Neill. It’s such a core company, Jack, Pat, Bridgette, Hunter, Kieran, and on and on. Just solid. They deserve another World Champ. A choice between John John and Jordy is no choice at all. John John is the golden boy. I say all in, big O’.

  • Jean-Marc T

    John John is the real deal. The only truly interesting new face to emerge since Kelly Slater. True, there’s been guys like Dane Reynolds, but they just don’t have the competitive spark that a true champion must have. JohnJohn is great for pro surfing. It needs true champions that can set themselves apart from the rest, and dominate in Hawaiian power at the end of the year.
    John John may not have the good looks of a young Kelly Slater but as he grows into manhood and fulfills his destiny, his true charisma will start to shine and make his pubescent look like a thing of the distant past. Thumbs down to corporate america for picking Julian Wilson for his “good” looks… The real deal is John John and the future will demonstrate that clearly.

  • Rich

    It’s just pretty damn cool to see some real surf style. He reminds me of a young Occ, Curren or Sunny with the Spirit of Ronnie Burns and a pinch of Carroll, Andy and Slater. This kid isn’t trying to be anything fake & marketable he is just ripping and doing it because it feels good and right. Stoked, epic to watch a solid legend in training. His mom did good.

  • Andy

    John Florence rips

  • Ryan

    Andy Irons will be always be the best surfer of all time ! But im sure he would be happy to see that Jonjon was taking serious notes ! Its his time now and its only just begun ! Yea JON

    • Mik

      I wit ya Ryan. I still get bummed when I see a photo of AI. Just heartbreaking. What a charger! He totally changed my concept of surfing, and how to read a wave.

  • JS

    i went to Hawaii this year and was talking with some of the older local guys and the all say they love surfing with JJ coz he is so respectful in the water. He’s not a wave hog and lets the older guys who can’t paddle fast or surf good get the waves they want, no hassle. All round good guy in and out of the water is what they say about him.

  • Dan Kulig

    Dane who?

    • ol’



    JonJon is the man because before all this Hype, the the KID put day on end out surfing at Beach Park, Pipe, and when it was shitty, he side Kahuku, or anywhere else there was surf, ALL DAY, EVERY DAY! i we would laugh because just when we thought we had it to are selves, JonJon would be roling up…haha. F all theat training shit, KS used to surf all day in flat Coco Bch. , AI did the same we used to do 3 to 4 section a day, Dawn to Dust, to what makes World Champs. i would know Both Champs have Couch Partol at my house. When i would see JonJon out all day in 2009/10 & 10/11, i knew this KID was going to be the Shit because when u gruel that hard u become so Consistent that you bare fall, and CONSISTENCE MAKEs a WORLD CHAMP, will JonJon top AI, who knows, but it going to be dan fun to Watch. But JonJon is definitely as raw of a Talent, that alone could get him 3x World Titles.

  • loco4olas

    Best thing about the young fella’ is he’s core-he’s a surfer’s surfer-no bullshit, loves to surf, loves to rip, does it for the love of it-more power to him-as an old fart, I look forward to following his surf career.

  • Fabio Dutra

    I would say we have 3 freaks on WT: KS, John John and Medina. Well… KS is close to retire… No doubt JJF will be world champ more than once. I also hope Medina with his tech and intelligence is able to learn how to be a great tube rider and manage waves of consequence soon… Curren x Occy; KS x AI; John John x Medina??? The show must go on…

  • Rudy

    JJ is a wonderboy no doubt. World champ? Might be soon. Hey, check out the prime in Saquarema, Brazil, right now, six to eight footers!

  • Burck

    JJ vs. Medina, the next AI vs. KS.

  • too soon

    whats not to like about this guy..
    charges, airs, humility. sounds like the next spokesman for the sport.

  • Aidan

    Of course all those companies want him, he has topped the exposure levels for the past 2 months. At 19 a 5 year deal would be a sound investment (barring any Reynolds-esque meltdowns.) Unfortunately, Billabong just doesn’t have the coin and Quiksilver would be spread too thin. Expect a battle between O’neill and (Nike/Hurley). Nike would shell out the most dough, but would an old soul like JJF sell out like that???? I reckon it’ll be the best bidding war since Jordy.

  • Byron

    Jon Jon is here to devour all Aussies on the WCT Tour. Nobody can compair to the Hawaiin King.

  • Vans for John

    I’m tipping Vans scoop him up once his contract is up with O’neill – would be a good fit plus he’s been riding for them for ages

  • David

    I’m sold. No blog. No towels. No bullshit. Ripping the fucking absolute bag out of it – the ultimate marketing angle. At last something in surfing that feels right.

  • SurfingExpert

    I think Fox would be scooping him up. Perfect fit!

  • Braden

    Tue dat Bra. JonJon makes the the Aussie contingent look like amatuers. Sorry but its true. He is the next level

  • Chico

    Medina is overrated his style is hard on the eye. JF’s style is more natural.

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