When it comes to modern day Pipe Masters -- that is, winners of the annual Billabong Pipe Masters event -- the list is short, sweet and not that hard to organize: Start with John John Florence, add Kelly Slater, Jamie O'Brien, Bruce Irons and go from there. Yet, and it almost sounds absurd to say this, Florence has never won an actual Pipe Masters title.
On his way to repeating as World Champion in December at the 2017 Billabong Pipe Masters, Florence's Finals opponent Jeremy Flores snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a heroic last-second ride. For John, it felt like a smash-and-grab of the highest order after being seconds away from his life-long dream. If not for the comfort of his second World Title, he might have gotten mad.
It also helps that Florence has won the Volcom Pipe Pro a record four times, and he'll be aiming for his fifth this week.
Since it's inaugural year in 2010 (when O'Brien won it), Florence has put a hammer lock on the event. But with his last win at Pipe coming back in 2015, it's safe to say the World Champ is chomping at the bit to find some sweet redemption out at his home break. "I always really enjoy the Volcom Pipe Pro, it's here at home, at my favorite wave, and that makes it such a great start to the year for me," said Florence, prior to the event.
Florence will be looking to bounce back after two disappointing performances -- by his lofty standards -- since he last hoisted the winner's trophy. He was eliminated in the Quarterfinals in 2016 and in the Semifinals last year by eventual winner, Soli Bailey, as well as by 2018 CT rookie, Griffin Colapinto, and Argentina's Leandro Usuna. "The surf has been really good historically, too," Florence said. "I think that's what I'm looking forward to most -- the chance to surf Pipe on a good day, with just a few other guys out. It's definitely a fun event, and hopefully I'll get to the Final with my brother and a couple of my friends."
A Final at Pipe featuring more than one Florence brother? That's a nightmare scenario the rest of the competitive draw will be looking to overcome at all costs.