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“I Hope We Get A Rivalry Going”

This morning the four world title contenders gathered in the backyard of the WSL’s Pipe house for a photo opportunity and to get poked and prodded by the press. It wasn’t quite like a heavyweight weigh in, it was a little more passive aggressive, but the tension was palpable.

John John Florence, Gabriel Medina, Jordy Smith and Julian Wilson shuffled to respective corners in the manicured yard, careful not to make eye contact with one another or even acknowledge their presence.

A foreign journalist asked John John, “Have you and Gabriel ever gone out for a beer?”

“We travel to the same locations on tour,” John coyly replied.

Translation: “Fuck no!”

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Embracing the discomfort. Photo: WSL

John was the first to show up in the morning. Out surfing lumpy Pipe early, he was penciled in for a live interview with an outlet in London at 8:45am. He got out of the water at exactly 8:45.

“You mean I have to do the interview all wet?” he asked, somewhat puzzled that the world hadn’t stopped for him.

Jordy showed up shortly afterwards, smiling, relaxed and happy to answer questions. When asked if he was disappointed that the title may have slipped from his grasp this year, he took it in stride.

“If it’s not this year, it’s next year. If it’s not next year it’s the year after,” he said.

Look at Jordy warming up for 2018! Very committed this guy.

While Jordy was chatting up the press, Gabriel, step-father Charlie and grizzled Rip Curl handler Ryan Fletcher showed up. Gabriel was swarmed while Charlie and Fletch hung back, fretting over what time the chef would be showing up at their house. 

“I like the chase...after Trestles something hit me. I just had a mission,” explained Gabriel. “I was home before France training and thought I was out of the race. I put a lot of work getting to this position.”

When asked if he knew what he needed to do to win the title, he explained, “I know if I make the final I have a good chance, so that’s my focus. The final, that’s my goal, then we will see what happens.”

On the subject of who was carrying more pressure into the Pipe Masters, Gabriel noted that “John’s surfing against his hometown, that’s a lot of pressure. I surfed a QS back at home and I don’t like to surf at home. I think he has more pressure because of that, but then he’s also probably the best surfer on tour at Pipe, so I don’t know.”

Eventually Julian showed up with his brother and manager, Bart. As kegs detonated on the reef out the back, a reporter asked him if he’d surfed Pipe since he’d been in Hawaii.

“No, not yet,” he admitted. 


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With a face like this, who needs Pipe practice? Photo: WSL

Ultimately, the man of the hour was the defending world champ. Everybody had a question for him, and just like his surfing has matured over the last 12 months, so has his interview acumen. The best response came when he was asked if he sees a rivalry developing between him and Gabriel.

“I hope we get a rivalry going, that’s what makes for good competition,” said John.

Cheers to that. More rivalries on tour would be a good thing.

The take-away from the morning’s press event is that there are two things that should have the rest of the contenders concerned: First, the forecast. According to Triple Crown director Marty Thomas, it’s supposed to pump pretty much the entire waiting period, so don’t expect this thing to come down to small Backdoor or shitty Ehukai. Second, John’s as focused as he’s ever been.

“I really enjoy being out there with nobody out,” he noted. That’s a terrible omen for his competition.

As soon as the press session ended, John, Gabriel and Julian headed straight out to Pipe. John promptly pulled into the wave of the day at Backdoor. Consider the gauntlet thrown. Now it’s time to get down to the business of winning the world title.


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