The last couple of years has presented John John Florence with no shortage of challenges. From a devastating knee injury and subsequent surgery, to the postponement of the Championship Tour due to the pandemic, the two-time World Champ has had to rely on his friends and family on the North Shore to push and inspire him.
And what we're seeing from Florence at the moment may be the best surfing he's ever done in his life. That's saying a lot considering his 2016 winter where he captured the World Title, Vans Triple Crown and Big Wave Invitational In Memory Of Eddie Aikau trophies, but from December until now, he's gone next level. A Billabong Pipe Masters victory, a cartoonishly huge outer reef barrel, and most recently, a Vans Triple Crown win -- the fourth of his already storied career.
The WSL's Kaipo Guerrero sat down with Florence before the Vans Triple Crown awards ceremony. This is what he had to say:
Guerrero: Describe your experience competing in the Digital Triple Crown -- no jersey, no clock, no heat draw -- versus your previous wins. John John Florence: It was one of my favorite formats I've ever surfed in a competition, though, just because of the freedom it allowed in it, you really can pick your own time to surf your own windows. And there's so much time to work on those waves. And you're really putting it all out there, going for broke on every single wave. So, I thought that was really cool. It was like going on a freesurf trip and trying to get the best clip, but it's kind of like you're in this somewhat of a competition format.
About your Haleiwa wave -- Parker Coffin called it the best wave he's ever seen surfed there, and other elite surfers like Riss, Mason and Dane gave it some serious props via IG -- from that searing first turn, to barrel, to end-section air drop, can you please walk us through it in your words?
The waves were really good that day, and I think it was just like me and Jack Robo in the beginning. And then Parker and them paddled out right before that wave happened. We were having a fun session and Jack got a really sick wave. I think it was one of his entries. He did a really big carve and then kind of went into the barrel. It got me fired up. And I was like, oh, my gosh, I want to do a big first turn off the takeoff.
Ross [Williams] was out there too was like sitting out the back for a while. I sitting next to Ross and then this one came through and it just had this double-up. And the glassiness, it was the second or third wave of the set. Ross was like, "Go!"
I went and I remember taking off and just thinking in my head that I just want to do a really big turn. When I went into it, I just was thinking about doing a big turn and the face was so clean and I was riding a smaller board. I just felt like I was going a million miles an hour on it. It just felt amazing. And coming out of that turn, I wasn't really expecting the barrel to be right there. I kind of just came up and I was like, oh, barrel. And it was just this perfect double-up and I just stood there and then came out and had that end section.
It was a really fun wave. It was sick to have Conner and Parker and all those guys so fired up. Parker got me so fired up for that. That was cool to have those guys there.
Talk to us about the significance of seeing women officially competing at Pipeline for the Triple Crown, and who do you think bagged the best Pipe wave of competition?
Well, I think having the Triple Crown for the women, as well and seeing them compete out at Pipe, has been really cool because now they're all pushing it out there and you're seeing them out there. And even for the Pipe Masters, the girls were out there, and they're practicing, and they're trying to get their waves.
I think Moana [Jones] has really made a huge push out there. The last couple of years she's been getting amazing waves, but especially during this Triple Crown window. She's got some incredible rides and she really spends a lot of time out there. She's surfing the wave amazing. She's getting deep and sitting in a really good spot and it's fun to watch her out there.
What are your thoughts about this type of competition format, do you see a future for it when the pandemic is in our collective rear-view mirror?
Yeah, I do see a future for this type of format. I think once we refine it a little bit and have judging everyday so people really know what their waves are and what they need, I think it'd be really interesting to watch and be a part of. Altogether, it's a really cool event because it allows so much freedom and it really allows the surfers to go above and beyond on their waves rather than building a heat structure in that short 30 minutes and trying to get the best waves you can in 30 minutes.
You have days now and you can spend hours in the water waiting for that one really good wave to really perform even better. I think it's a cool format to push the level of surfing and performance surfing, wherever it may be. Say it is at Lower Trestles or something like that, guys are really going to have to start pushing to do a huge air out the back and do really big combinations on waves. I see a future for it for sure.