Stab Magazine | 10 Years Ago: John John Florence’s first Mentawais Trip
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10 Years Ago: John John Florence’s first Mentawais Trip

Words and photos by Jake Howard Ten years ago, on a cold, dark night… John John Florence landed in Padang. Probably the biggest trip of his burgeoning career, he was 12 years old. Mom John wrangled the brood, Ivan and Nathan trotting along behind. It was their first time in Indo. Their first time in […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Words and photos by Jake Howard

Ten years ago, on a cold, dark night… John John Florence landed in Padang. Probably the biggest trip of his burgeoning career, he was 12 years old. Mom John wrangled the brood, Ivan and Nathan trotting along behind. It was their first time in Indo. Their first time in the Mentawais. They almost didn’t make it. Mom John got caught up shopping in Bali, and time does fly. They ended up catching a speedboat out to the Pelagic to meet us before we motored too far out of range.

First stop was The Hole. At six-feet, John toyed with it. Ivan, the youngest, took donuts and skittered over the inside reef like a water skeeter. Unscathed, he’d end up on the beach, find a keyhole, paddle back out and do it all over again. Then it was on to Greenbush, which at the time hadn’t been surfed too much. Kelly was in the islands at the same time and cruising on the Indies IV. He flew over in a helicopter while John handled the sectioning slab with the same casual aplomb he approaches Pipe with today. The kid was unflappable, until it came to math homework back on the boat. After a stop at Lance’s it was up to Rag’s Right. The score of the trip. Below sea level and silly.

In brief that’s how John’s first mission to the Ments played out. Good surf and relatively smooth sailing. Even at 12 he handled himself with poise and composure. He was clearly the leader of the pack, but always leading by actions rather than words. Quiet and modest at 12, in today’s context, that says something about who the young man has become today.

The trip landed him his first cover of Surfer magazine. In the story I wrote I praised his talent, but also cautioned about the perils of being a pre-teen phenom. Ten years after the fact, seeing his success is wonderful, but knowing that he’s able to turn his phone off and get lost sailing around Hawaii on his boat? That’s proof positive the priorities are still in the right place. Money or stardom doesn’t buy that kind of character. The following are some outs from that trip back in the summer of 2005. It was fun.

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Mother hen at work. Always putting the kids first, Alex never stopped tending to her brood while so far away from their home in Hawaii.

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Old souls, yes. Nathan and Ivan swap fish tails.

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Ivan, inked.

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Sashimi a la Florence. Everything was an enthusiastic group effort with the three boys.

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Greenbush. John handled it.

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The boy who would be king.

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Breakfast with champions. Pre Greenbush fuel session.

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Lord of the fly hunters. Nathan and Ivan locked and loaded.

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John digging for the 5’2” pintail.

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John and Alex.

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A pirate’s life for Ivan.

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Nathan, 10 years before he knifed the heaviest wave ever paddled into at Teahupoo.

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Rag’s Right with John in the place to be. To this day, it still don’t get no better than that.

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Eventually John jumped in the boat with them and paddled around. True story.

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