Cartoon tubes at Cloudbreak. Photo: Joli
Pretty early to be slotting him in this list but we’re pretty confident that we’re looking at a multiple world title winner here. From two foot beach breaks to 20 foot plus Cloudbreak, John Florence is pretty much untouchable. His worst enemy right now is the strain his high-risk brand of surfing places on his body. “That’s the one thing about the air guys nowadays: there’s gonna be a lot of injuries that are going to determine a World Champion. For the next ten years you’re gonna expect John John and Medina to be in World Title talk every time but whose gonna hurt themselves more doing airs?” said Kelly following John John’s debilitating ankle injury at the Quik Pro.
The son of Alex Florence, who raised John and his two brothers as a single mother on the North Shore, John has spent his life a stone’s throw from Pipeline. As a result he was mentored by many of the world’s best surfers, including Florence Kelly Slater and Jamie O’Brien, among others. At seven, Herbie Fletcher was towing him into outer reefs while his prowess at Pipeline is already largely unrivalled. Three Volcom Pipe Pro wins are testament to that. you’d expect a kid whose grown up in the long period waves of Hawaii to possibly struggle in the short period slop the rest of the world operates on. But not John. In his debut year on tour he won a World Tour event in Brazil and finished fourth in the title race. “He’s got all the elements of one of the most amazing surfers I’ve ever seen,” said Joel Parkinson afterwards. His meteoric rise has come at a cost, however. A broken back, broken wrist, broken leg, arm and now an ankle ligament tear has put the biggest question mark over his longevity and ability to become one of the true greats. “They’re gonna have to be careful of that for the next 20 years,” says Kelly. – JS