John Florence's chemistry with Western Australia is undeniable. His comfortable relationship with one of the most nuanced stops on Tour, combined with the 2x World Champ's No. 1 ranking going into the event helped contribute to his win at the 2019 Margaret River Pro.
While not all CT competitors click with Margaret River's Main Break, and even more so with The Box, Florence's uncanny fluidity and confidence in West Oz seems to have always been present -- especially two years ago with his first win at the 2017 Margaret River Pro.
During Heat 3 of the 2019 Maragaret River Pro's Seeding Round, Florence treated the commentary booth to a guest appearance. The surfer from Hawaii told Joe Turpel and Martin Potter that his 2017 win was one of the best events of his career, a performance that he'll remember his whole life. "The thing that made [my 2017 win] the most fun for me," Florence said, "was that I felt like I didn't have to think too much. [Main Break] was a lot like the waves in Hawaii and I was riding the boards that I ride at home."
Florence's searing rail work across Main Break's walls during that event is still memorable for fans and intimidating for fellow competitors, even two years later. It's also a win that Florence channeled for this year's performance, where he had an unbeatable aura since paddling out in the Seeding Round.
This confidence stems from Florence's comfort at Margies. The fact that Florence feels "at-home" enough in Western Australia to not have to think too much when he's surfing Main Break is surprising. The way Florence links turns at Main Break looks like he can predict what a wave is doing three sections ahead, a Chess-master quality that for most, requires a lot of thinking. His rail-work is surgical for being decided on a whim.
Despite Florence's relaxed approach to Main Break, he's not immune to the anxiety caused by The Box. "When you have a heat at The Box and the waves are good," Florence said, "it's scary, it's fun and kind of a little bit of everything. When you're sitting out there with priority and a set is coming, you know you're going to have to takeoff behind the peak on that thing and go." Which is exactly what Florence did in his heat with the nerves he mentioned not present, on the exterior at least.
There are several similarities between Florence's 2017 and 2019 wins. For starters, both years he surfed against Kolohe Andino in the Final. Florence also posted two excellent range scores in both Finals as well. These dual dominant performances in the Final are remarkable, especially since Florence's affinity for Main Break stems from "not having to think too much" when surfing it.
Florence's momentum in the 2019 event built a little slower than it did in 2017. He didn't post a 9.00 or better until the Quarters this year. He started dropping nines in Round 3 of the 2017 event.
Another difference between Florence's 2017 win and 2019 win is that this year, he went into the event wearing the Jeep Leaderboard yellow jersey. Numbers show that Florence, of all surfers to ever be ranked No. 1, has won the most heats while sitting in the top spot on the Leaderboard.
After his 2017 win at Margies, Florence went on to win his second consecutive World Title. His Margaret River win this year has given him the best start to a Title campaign in his career's history. When Turpel brought this fact up to Florence during his post-Final interview, Florence remarked, "It's still early in the season." He may be right. But even if he doesn't like to, he's certainly given those with Title-eyes a lot to think about going in to Rio.