In "View From A Blue Moon," John John Florence's signature film released in 2015, he affectionately describes West Oz as "a whole different kind of surfing…so raw and alive."
Now, a 2x Wold Champion and a 2x Margaret River Pro champ, Florence still prefers his ocean raw and alive. He does his best surfing when the conditions demand both a strong constitution and an abundance of creativity.
A win in big, wild and woolly surf at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in April, primed Florence for what would be a meticulously strategized, dominating performance at the Margaret River Pro.
In the opening Seeding Round, Florence found himself up against a re-energized Kelly Slater, who was coming off of back-to-back Quarterfinal finishes, and Jadson Andre. With stiff offshore winds and waves in the chest- to head-high range, Florence had the heat won in the first five minutes.
Notching a pair of 6-point rides out of the gates, he left Slater and Andre chasing scores they never found the rest of the heat. Linking together clear, full-rail maneuvers, Florence took a clean, fundamental approach in both of his scoring waves. Given the forecast had conditions hanging over 10 feet for the entirety of the waiting period, he was clearly pacing himself out of the gates, knowing full well that there was much more surfing to be done.
Round of 32:
Held in kegging conditions at The Box, the Round of 32 saw Florence up against Jack Freestone. While both surfers were on a bit of an even playing field, riding boards designed and shaped by Jon Pyzel, the clear advantage went to Florence. Freestone's been lighting up the Red Bull Airborne Bali series this year, but Florence is next level in sub-sea level, slabby barrels. Freestone kept it close until the halfway mark, then Florence stood tall in a bomb, earning a 6.83 for the ride. The wave would prove to be the turning point for Florence in the contest. It's precisely when he shifted gears and elevated his game.
Round of 16:
Back at Main Break in clean, rippable, overhead surf, Florence's momentum continued to build through the Round of 16, where he mowed down Sebastian Zietz. At the 17-minute mark Florence locked into an 8.17 for his highest score of the contest thus far.
Letting his intentions be known, his opening carve was the first time he unleashed the extra torque in his forehand gaff that separates him from the rest of the field. Cranking his board through a tight arc with an extra push at the very end, the signature maneuver not only requires a great deal of speed and power, he stays low and compact, using it to set himself up for the next section, adding an extra bit of flow to his line that most surfers simply don't have.
By the time Florence hit the Quarterfinals he was off to the races. Posting a 9.23 and 8.50 for a 17.73 heat total, he left Italo Ferreira in his wake. Ferreira opened strong with a 7-point ride, but Florence opened strong with his 8.50. He slammed the door shut on Ferreira halfway through the heat with his demonstrative 9-pointer. Again, applying extra degrees of arc to his carves and wraps, he rose to the occasion.
Florence continued to quell the Brazilian storm in the Semifinals when he dispatched an in-form Caio Ibelli. Again, Florence got the best of the opening exchange by more than a point, leaving Ibelli playing catch-up the rest of the heat.
Then, in the dying minutes of the heat Florence put the hammer down, locking in a pair of 7-point rides. Needing a score in the excellent range, Ibelli countered with less than two minutes on the clock, earning a 7.83. It would not be enough. Florence was on the way to his second Final of the year.
No stranger to his rival in the Final, Kolohe Andino and Florence have been battling against one another going all the way back to their earliest days as grommets in youth and junior contests. There's much love and respect between the two, but they've been doing this for years and still want to smash each other.
Andino came out throwing haymakers, jumping out to an early lead. Twenty-eight minutes into the Final, Andino held the lead, and for the second time this year he looked like his first-ever CT win was close at hand.
It would be the only time all contest Florence would have to stage a comeback. And he did, landing a devastating body blow that knocked Andino back on his heels. He locked into his first 9-point ride of the Final. Andino's high score at the time was a 7.50. Again, the point of difference in the scores between the two surfers was Florence's torque and extra wrap in his turns.
From that point on Andino was left looking for a response that never came. Florence sealed the deal with a 9.50 with 30 seconds left in the Final. Game, set, match.
"It was a hard event to surf, a lot of different conditions, a lot of wind," a relieved Florence said from the channel when it was over.
Back from injury, with two wins in four contests this year, Florence has tightened his grip on the Jeep Leader jersey. As the Tour heads to Brazil, his surfing in any and all conditions is rock solid right now. The confidence and comfort level is soaring. The only question is will anybody be able to slow him down?