In case you couldn’t tell, the guy in the image above is good at surfing. In fact, at this precise moment, by the only metric that matters, he’s the best surfer alive. That’s John John Florence, a 24-year-old phenom who just brought the world title back to Hawaii for the first time since Andy Irons won in 2004 (in surfing, Hawaii is essentially treated as an autonomous nation).
Florence’s championship was sealed during the semifinals at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal. Between celebrations, the superstar also went out and won the title. Now, he gets to fly home to Hawaii for Pipe Masters, already the champ, and compete in front of hometown fans, surfing breaks he knows down to the most minute detail, with no pressure to perform. It’s a dream scenario for a young man who’s absolutely beloved across the surf industry.
Last year, when we put together an oral history covering Florence’s famous 2014 heat in Tahiti versus Kelly Slater, WSL officials, surf journalists, and Slater himself raved about Florence’s preternatural sense of calm. “I don’t know if his heartbeat ever gets above 50,” retired-pro Ross Williams told us then. “He’s really mellow. He’s not fidgety, he’s not that kind of athlete that might over-froth and get too excited. He just really buckles down when the waves get crazy.”
The legendary Tahiti heat ended with Slater on top, but there was a sense that it had sparked something in John John — a commitment to the rigors of competitive surfing that he hadn’t fully revealed before. The general feeling around the surf world seemed to be, “This kid can do anything, he just needs to decide what he wants to do next.” Well, after finishing his absolutely stunning and widely acclaimed surf movie, View From A Blue Moon, which…Okay, listen, we’re going to drop the trailer in because —