Stab Magazine | John John Florence As Told By John John Florence

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John John Florence As Told By John John Florence

A worthy read penned by the two named, two time world champ in the Players’ Tribune. 

news // Mar 3, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

John John Florence is elusive. He hasn’t been to Foodland (the North Shore’s only grocery store) in two years. 

In the age of Kardashian, social media and Fearofmissingout, his personal life has remained private. While, the majority of his colleagues are ever-present in thumb scrolls on their PR platforms, the blonde haired, scraggly chinned surfer from the North Shore bought a million-plus dollar yacht, sailed it from his home to Maui for the most recent Jaws swell and didn’t post a single photo. Which, sadly, is something unheard of in the tender year of 2018. 

Recently, the Players’ Tribune published a piece entitled The Ocean Is Everything. It’s penned by Mr Florence and covers everything from his mom as his biggest inspiration, beekeeping, the shift in his competitive mindset, sailing, and much more. 

Anyway, here it is: 

The Ocean Is Everything

When people ask me about how I came to be who I am, or what inspired me as a kid, I usually tell them about the North Shore of Oahu.

First, though, I talk about my mom.

She surfs every day. Always has. When I was growing up, she was on the water any chance she got. And to this day, when she’s not working or surfing, my mom is at the skatepark. She loves skating almost as much as she loves surfing.

I remember these times when I was super young, like eight or so, and the waves were pretty big … and I was a little bit scared to go out on my board. My mom wouldn’t make me go, or pressure me, or anything like that. She’d just look at me and kind of shrug her shoulders and say, “O.K., well I’m going out.”

It was like … O.K., bye.

And I’d just kind of look at her like, Wait … what? You’re going out?
This is at Pipeline, mind you, right in front of our house on the beach on the North Shore. There are really big waves in the winter. Serious stuff. And, this is my mom.

Just ready to paddle out on her longboard and have fun and see what happens.
I could’ve stayed back, for sure.

But what was I gonna do … sit around on the beach and watch my mom surf? No way.

So I’d follow her out into the ocean.

And every single time I did that, I’d have so much fun. I never regretted it.
So, yeah, that’s my first inspiration. Definitely. My mom. She’s classic.
My mom also gave me the nickname John John — she’d first heard it used for JFK Jr. And she’s the one responsible for my love of the North Shore. She worked really hard so my two younger brothers and I could live right on the beach with her at Pipe.

This winter, after wrapping up the WSL season back home on the North Shore with the world title, I’ve been thinking a lot about what growing up here has meant to me over the years…

And how great it is to be from this place.

I love pretty much everything about it, but there are two main things that really define where I come from:

First, the ocean is everything here.

My life has revolved around the ocean since the beginning, and it’s like that with everyone in this community. The North Shore kind of has a small town feeling to it. Everyone knows everyone, and it seems like everybody here has something to do with the ocean.

That love for the ocean is just inside of you if you grow up here — whether you’re fishing, or surfing, or bodysurfing, or a million other things, you can always find something fun to do in the ocean. So it’s a really cool center point that we all have here.

Second, where I’m from everyone looks out for one another.

It’s like one big family here, for sure. And one of the things about being from Hawaii is that you grow up learning to respect your elders, and to have a lot of respect for other people around you. So that’s what this community is all about. The young kids respect the adults, and the adults are always looking out for the kids. Especially in the water. And that was a big deal for me, because I started surfing at Pipe when I was super young.

Because of the sense of community that exists on the North Shore, I always felt like I was being watched over by a lot of the older guys when I was in the water. It was just a really, really cool feeling, for sure.

More experienced surfers would check on me all the time and just make sure everything was O.K. This one time when I was 12 or so, I remember things were getting pretty interesting, some big waves. I was way out in the channel at Pipe, and kind of out of nowhere Nathan Fletcher — who’s a great surfer and waterman — paddles by and says, “Hey, John! You all good?”

I’m just this little kid sitting out there on his board. I probably looked terrified to him at the time. But there we were, you know?

I was like, “Yeah … I’m doing good.”

It was like we were passing each other in the supermarket aisle.
And then right after I said that, I remember watching him pull into one of the biggest barrels I’ve ever seen. Just this massive barrel … right in front of me.

He checked on me, and then he locked in and got his wave.

Living right on the beach, and always being around the water, was such an amazing way to grow up. My brothers and I were super fortunate. I can’t imagine a better way to spend your childhood.

Another big influence was that my mom always encouraged us to explore and to interact with our surroundings. So she taught us to appreciate the ocean, and to recognize just how cool the natural environment was where we lived. From a young age, that really stuck with me.

My favorite time to be out on the beach or outside has always been at first light. For as long as I can remember, I’ve set alarms and forced myself out of bed and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes so I’d be able to take in that first light from a spot on the beach out in front of the house where we grew up.

When I’m out there early in the morning, I’m just blown away by the beauty of it all — the way the sun comes over the mountain and the clouds light up pink. It’s always been something I really enjoy, and my love for those moments goes all goes back to when I was a little kid.

It goes back to dawn patrol days.

When I was little my brothers and our friends would always get together and plan things to do outside. Dawn patrol was our favorite. It was basically just waking up super early to go to the beach before anyone else got out there. But to us, it was a huge deal — the most exciting thing in the entire world.

We’d meet up the afternoon before and plot everything out like we were on a secret mission or something. We’d be so stoked about it all.

It was like, O.K., tomorrow morning … let’s do it. Dawn patrol!

We were so into this. It’s crazy.

We’d wake up in the dark and run out in front of the house super quiet, like it was a big secret that no one else could know about. Then we’d watch the sun come up and the clouds turn pink, and surf the little sandbars at first light. It would just be us out there in the water. And those little adventures were so exciting for us….

While they lasted.

The worst feeling in the world was the point when we realized we had to leave the beach. We’d be out in the water having fun and all of a sudden we’d realize, “We have to go to school!”

At that point, we’d try to push for more time.

Someone was always pushing it, like, “No … one more wave! Let’s get one more first!”

Then, when we couldn’t delay any longer, we’d throw on our T-shirts, grab our backpacks, and run across the street to school barefoot. (Our teachers were always so cool with it.) When school was over, I would do the reverse — run home barefoot and just go straight to the beach with my friends and my brothers. It didn’t matter if the waves were huge or small, we’d do that pretty much every day. And it was awesome.

We’d be bodysurfing in the shallow water, or bodyboarding, or whatever, and just dreaming of one day surfing big Pipeline. I distinctly remember turning to my brother Nathan constantly back then, when Pipeline was good, and just giving him this look like, Did you seeeeeeee that barrel?

It was an amazing way to grow up.

And because our hometown hosted the Pipe Masters contest at the end of each season, we got to see our heroes up close. It was pretty crazy. A lot of world titles come down to that last event, and as a little kid it was so cool to be able to watch guys like Kelly Slater and Andy Irons surf such incredible heats, and win championships right in our backyard.

Even though I was just a little kid, I felt like I was part of surfing history.

I think a lot of people assume surfing came easy for me. But that’s definitely not the case.

I started competing in events when I was really young. One result of that is you end up losing a lot.

At first, that was fine. As a super young kid, I loved traveling around to different islands for little surfing events because I met so many friends that way. It was just a fun way to spend your weekends. We’d all pack up and go to Kauai or Maui, and the contest would be on and you would just be hanging out with your friends all day.

Everything about that was fun.

But when I decided to compete in the Qualifying Series for a spot on the World Surf League Championship Tour, the losing part became, I don’t know … less fun.

I just kept losing and losing and losing. I was nowhere near qualifying. I’d make one heat, and then I would lose again. And it just continued like that for two or three years.

At one point I considered giving it up and doing something else.

I remember thinking to myself, What’s the plan here? Do I really want to keep doing this? Maybe it would be more fun to go in a different direction.

I was just too young. I’m glad, now, that I did jump in at a young age. But it was rough.

To read the rest, click this link.


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