Straight out of the gates, John John Florence reminded everyone that he's just as electric in small waves as he is back home at Pipeline. In tricky conditions of Day One of the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup presented by Corona, he paddled out on a carbon-wrapped Pyzel shape and barely had to break a sweat to earn himself a spot in the upcoming Round of 32. Before Florence hit the water the WSL caught up with the two-time World Champion to discuss his preparation for the first event of the Australian leg, surfing small waves and the new Rip Curl WSL Finals format, which will see the top five surfers in the world vie for a World Title in a single day of competition at Lower Trestles:
WSL: What was the best thing about being in quarantine for two weeks?
John John Florence: The best thing about being in quarantine for two weeks was I had a lot of time to work on the mental side of my life, I guess, and I really enjoy that and that's what I really enjoy about competing is the mental side, and quarantine just gave the time for that.
What was the worse thing about quarantine?
The worst thing was the fitness thing, trying to keep fit my fitness up was really hard, especially after ten days or so you start getting pretty tired of it and so changing up your workout routine and stuff ... there's nothing that really compares to surfing for two or three hours so it's really hard to keep that level or cardio up and so getting out of quarantine and feeling pretty tired and feeling like, okay, wow I have a bit or work to do here.
Talk us through the first wave after two weeks in a hotel room?
Well it was just the first session more so, you know, I kind of expected it to be hard and not go the way I thought it would but it was definitely like, you don't have that feeling, it's slow, your timing is way off, like, it's just not really what I'm used to.
How do you feel about surfing small beachbreaks after a winter in Hawaii?
I love it, for me it's a challenge and it's what i don't normally get to surf at home often, so for me it's fun to work on smaller-wave boards that are going a lot quicker and kind of dialing in the equipment a bit more, because when I'm surfing at home during the winter time it's kind of [like] any board works, there's so much power there. So coming here, it's actually really fun for me.
I have a few that are working really good, and we're working on different materials, sizes and shapes. It's fun for me, I'm a bigger kind of person, I have a little more weight and so getting going in those little waves can be pretty difficult but when you find the right equipment it makes it as fun as going surfing in good waves because you're just flying around and you can do whatever you want."
What are your thoughts on the new WSL Finals format?
"I like the new format, I think it's a really cool thing. I think everyone is going to tune in to watch it. you know, both my World Titles were won when someone else was beating someone else and I'm not even in the water and so just winning the World Title, being in the water all on one day ... I think we'll be able to pick a really good day to surf because it's a one-day event so I think it's going to be really cool, I like it a lot."