With John John Florence announcement that he'll be out for the Corona Open J-Bay in July, he's looking at at least eight weeks away from competition before Tahiti rolls around. The two-time, reigning World Champ injured his knee on a landing-gone-wrong in Bali, and has been beached for a bit while he heals.
While injuries can be devastating, especially after the high that Florence has been riding for the past two years, this is hardly Florence's first injury (and probably won't be his last) so you can bet he's coming to terms with the setback. Truth be told, there's more than a few silver linings that come with being sidelined, and here's just a bit of how he might spend his summer.
The best thing about knee injuries today is that surgeons have the procedure far more wired than they did 20 years ago. Thanks to more knowledge and better understanding among physical therapists, it's not uncommon for athletes to come back from that injury stronger than before. But you can bet John will be nurturing the rest of his body along the way. Surfers on the WSL Championship Tour (CT) are typically playing through pain. Circumstances usually dictate that they play through nagging injuries that slowly pile up. John's consistently tuning up his body to keep old injuries (like his broken back) from bothering him, but in the end there's nothing better than a good chunk of rest and rehab, which also brings a chance for personal healing. Relationships take work too, and being home for an extended period of time will allow him to strengthen vital friendships that make Florence who he is. Deep down, John's still a small-town kid who likes to tend his own garden. Exploring and nurturing his root system will be just as crucial as all the physical rehab -- not to mention, a lot more fun.
Florence has been breaking down his surfing to a science, and the results have been amazing. By taking a more analytical approach, we saw him reach the pinnacle of his career and stay there in 2016 and 2017, becoming the first men's World Champ since Andy Irons (and just the fourth in history) to defend his first Title -- a huge feat. But sustaining that type of focus is not only tough, the price tag can be some serious mental exhaustion to the left side of the brain. That's the side that takes on most of the heavy lifting of being hyper-focused. It's tough to tell if mental exhaustion was already plaguing him in 2018 as he slipped down the rankings, but regardless, a forced break now will free his mind from that effort, allowing him to widen his lens, and absorb the larger and meaningful context of his purpose on this planet. Winning Titles is nice, but in the grand scheme of things it's merely a means to some other, bigger end. One huge benefit of letting the more creative, intuitive, right side of our brains take over is they're designed to absorb the unexplainable world around us while the imagination wanders. Truth be told, John has more to offer the world than his surfing, and whether he's off in his boat sailing or just sitting and talking deeply with friends, he'll be tapping into his reservoir of deeper meaning.
Boiled down, the process above involves reconnecting both mind and body to something bigger. When complete, the result will be a new fuel source for Florence, which is likely to supply him for years to come. The weight of his hyper-focus will also be reduced, making it easier for him to switch on and off when needed. This is a process we saw Mick Fanning master during the later part of his career. After all, Fanning didn't even hit his stride until after he nearly ripped his leg into pieces and sat out a full season. Sure, John will be catching glimpses of the action from the sidelines, but close examination won't come until just before he's ready to return. By then, he'll have a much more vivid picture of the world around him, and the moving parts that matter most. The job of enjoying himself while performing at a peak level will feel easier by then, and a rekindled fire will make him more dangerous than ever.