John John Florence is gearing up for what could be a monumental year in his career. With the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games just months away, he's using the last little bit of free-time to rest up his knee and do some speed sailing in Australia.
On a recent trip down under, Florence joined up with the Australia SailGP Team to test-drive their supercharged F50 called, "the Roo." Led by Olympic Gold Medalist Tom Slingsby, Australia's team is also preparing for their season which gets underway on February 28th in Sydney. Like Florence, Slingsby and his squad know what it's like to open a season with a title to defend.
"I've never gone so fast on a boat -- thanks for letting me drive," said Florence.
A state-of-the-art vessel that utilizes space-age technology, including highly tuned carbon fiber foils, the boat has the capacity to top 50 knots when sailing at top speed.
Florence's passion for sailing goes back a number of years. He's owned multiple boats, and life at sea has afforded him the ability to escape the demands of being a two-time World Champion and get back to basics. He's even entertained the idea of sailing from his home in Hawaii to the contest in Tahiti.
"I was thinking it would be fun to sail to Tahiti for the contest," Florence told ESPN a couple years ago while rehabbing his initial knee injury. "It'd be rad to just sail down there and stay on the boat. Someday maybe."
He reportedly owns a 48-foot catamaran named Falcor, which he's taken to the the Palmyra Atoll in the South Pacific to explore the remote chain of islands.
"I definitely want to sail around the world at some point-find some good waves and keep going to those places that I never thought I would end up," added Florence.
In fact, Florence's passion for sailing fits nicely in the waterman's narrative. Surfers have been looking to beat the wind literally since the first days of foam and fiberglass.
Mid-Century legends like Joe Quigg and Joey Cabell transitioned relatively early in their surfing careers to become boat builders. Of course, back in the late 1950s there was no such thing as a surf career as the sport and culture were still in its infancy, but the high seas beckoned to them nonetheless.
One origin story for surfers and sailboats can be traced back to Beach Road in Capistrano Beach, California. A relatively forgotten stretch of sand wedged between Dana Point and San Clemente, in 1955 a young surfer named Wayne Schaffer purchased an oceanfront lot on beach road for $5,000.
Flippy and Walter Hoffman (grandfather to Christian and Nathan Fletcher) moved in next door. Other pioneers like filmmaker Bruce Brown and board builder Hobie Alter helped round out the neighborhood.
Schaffer rented rooms to Phil Edwards and Gordon "Grubby" Clark. It was here that Clark first began to develop his formula for making polyurethane surfboard foam. As for Edwards, when he wasn't surfing The Trestle or San Onofre with Miki Dora, when the west winds came up in the afternoon he got busy building a boat.