John John Florence's master plan seems to be coming together. Hawaii's newest World Champ jumped out to an early lead in this year's Triple Crown race by winning the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa in front of thousands of his adoring hometown fans.
"This is the best year of my life, for sure," Florence said up on the podium. "I'm so glad to get a win here at home. I want to win the Triple Crown. I want to win Pipe. I want it all," he laughed.
Florence was nearly topped in the final minute by Portugal's fast rising star Frederico Morais, who finished one one-hundredth of a point behind Florence after making one last gasp attempt at passing him during the last wave ridden during the Final.
Commentator Ross Williams, the former CT star, said he'd never seen a score so close. Morais needed a 7.34 to overtake Florence. He got a 7.33, which means he and Florence tied on their top two scoring rides. But since Florence had the highest single scoring ride of the Final, an 8.83, he took the tie-breaker win.
Morais may get a number of chances at revenge, however. The runner-up finish propelled him 18 spots up the Qualifying Series rankings to No. 10, right inside the cut. With another QS10,000 starting next week at Sunset Beach, he's nowhere near secure, but he does have his destiny is in his own hands.
If he can pull it off, there will be three fresh European surfers moving on to the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour in 2017. France's Joan Duru and Italy's Leonardo Fioravanti have already secured their spots.
Meanwhile, Marc Lacomare proved there's plenty of depth on the European bench. Powerful and polished, he was surfing on point all week. In the Semifinal, he drilled home a 9.77, which helped get him past the new QS frontrunner, Connor O'Leary, and CT rookie Davey Cathels, who's still fighting for his 2017 CT slot.
Cathels jumped eight spots to No. 18 on the QS, just behind fellow rookie Jack Freestone. Both need big results at Sunset Beach in order to make the qualifying cut. Or they need a small miracle at Pipe.
The other big mover on Friday was Brazilian Jadson Andre, who's been surfing with a trick knee all year because, as he has said, he has no choice but to perform. Andre's assuming Bede Durbidge and Owen Wright will be given the only two injury wildcard spots on next year's Tour, so he has been surfing through pain, and with no major sponsor.
A few weeks ago Andre's prospects for requalifying looked beyond bleak. But he made a huge leap by earning a runner-up finish at the Hang Loose Pro in Brazil. And at Haleiwa, operating on pure desire, he willed his way into a fifth-place finish. It's even more impressive considering that he was bedridden for two days just before his Round Three heat earlier this week.
His strong Semifinal finish lifted him to No. 12 on the QS rankings, up 10 full spots. If he can jump two more at Sunset he'll have pulled one of the best late-season charges in recent memory.
And you never know, he might even put himself in contention for the Triple Crown title. But right now the odds just jumped big-time in John John Florence's favor there. Florence's dream season is still in full effect, and he wants nothing more than to wake up from the whole thing at Pipeline.