In the world of surf, Hawaii’s Sunset Beach is a break held in high regard, reserved for hefty, seasoned surfers with decades of experience and a steely resolve. Fifteen year-old John John Florence might have defied the theory by advancing through two rounds of the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing today, but could well see his life flash before his eyes if forecasts for wave face heights in excess of 20 feet in the coming days hold true. The $125,000 O’Neill World Cup of Surfing is the second jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series. The youngest competitor in the event, Florence stands roughly five feet tall and weighs in at less than 100 pounds. His miniature form made today’s excellent six- to 10-foot surf appear mountainous as he etched a trail of white water across smooth, liquid walls.
It was a sight to behold for the crowd of tourists on the beach, many of whom were getting their first look at Hawaii’s famous winter waves. For them, the vision of Florence tearing the scene apart was nothing short of breath-taking.
Florence’s rivals weren’t as impressed as, one-by-one, they fell victim to his finely honed, home-grown repertoire. Florence eliminated seasoned World Qualifying Series competitors Gavin Beschen (HI), Chaz Chidester (HI), Joan Duru (France), and Ola Eleogram (HI) today, overcoming a snapped surfboard in his second round heat to scratch through." On order, he posted a last ride of 2.73 points to finish end a day’s work.
“It was stressful in the end," said Florence of his broken surfboard ordeal. “I knew I only needed a (two point score) and there was 50 seconds to go.
“I was riding a 6′0" (surfboard), but I broke it, so now I’m riding a 5′8". The swim to the channel was pretty hectic and tiring."
Lucky for John John, he had his trusty caddy on standby with a back-up surfboard in the channel: his four feet tall little brother.
Locals dominated the early heats of competition, as is the usual scenario for this event. Local pair Marcus Hickman and Gavin Gillette topped the day’s two-wave heat scores with respective totals of 14.83 and 14.0 points.
Others to progress today included Adam Robertson (Australia), Dane Gudauskas (San Clemente, CA), Nic Muscroft (Australia), and Flynn Novak (HI), who all won their second round heats. In addition to the $125,000 prize purse for this event, O’Neill has partnered with American Racing Equipment, Inc. to offer additional awards for the “Best Barrel" and “Breakout Performance". Recipients of these awards will win a set of American Racing rims out of the ATX Series of all-terrain wheels. There will be plenty of tube-riding potential over the coming days, with Surfline.com’s official Vans Triple Crown forecast calling for wave face heights of 12- to 18-feet tomorrow and Thursday, six- to eight-feet Friday, and in excess of 20 feet Saturday.
All of the action of this year’s Vans Triple Crown of Surfing can be experienced live via the internet at www.triplecrownofsurfing.com powered by surfspot.com.