Born in New Caledonia, raised in Reunion Island, groomed in France and now a citizen of the world, it seems Jeremy Flores’ surfing career is one of constant metamorphosis.
Easily spotted when just a teenager as one of the most talented surfers of his generation, Flores came quickly through the European junior ranks, honing his act in Australia, Europe and Hawaii and doing his schooling through correspondence. The end result of this outstanding talent and thoroughly modern era grommethood was a hyperfast tracked surfing career and him becoming the youngest ever surfer to qualify for the elite world tour at age 17 in 2006.
Unlike previous prodigies, the closest in talent and expectation being Taj Burrow, Flores went straight on to the world tour, where his mix of power and fluid style adjusted easily to both the hype and the competition. He finished 8th in the rankings, was awarded Rookie of the Year and was quite rightly talked as a legitimate world title contender in the not too distant future.
However in the five years since, that eighth place is still his highest ever ranking on the world tour, and while he’s maintained his world tour status, comfortably rating around the low teens, a combination of injury, new emerging talent and the continuance of Slater’s dominance means it’s been a long time since anyone mentioned Flores as a world title contender.
Jeremy at The Bong Chopes Pro 2012, where he lost to Parko in controversial circumstances…
And yet Flores’ surfing has progressed in many ways, and especially in the heavy surf category. While a famous pull in into a 10 foot closeout in a heaving La Graviere beachbreak as a 17-year-old wildcard at the Quiksilver Pro hinted at the serious balls behind the spindly wunderkid, it has been his performances in Hawaii and Tahiti in the last few years that have marked him as one of biggest chargers on the world tour. He’s now one of the few world tour surfers that does serious time on the North Shore, still the biggest proving ground in surfing, which was a huge factor in him becoming the 2010 Pipe Master, his first and only elite ASP World Tour victory.
But it was the 2011 Billabong Pro in Tahiti, held in 10-12 foot surf that really heralded Flores’ big wave act, whilst also pointing to a possible path for the future. In his first heat he took off on a wave that Kelly Slater described as “the heaviest wave I’ve ever seen in a competition,” before going on to reach the semis, locking in a series of 10 point death rides on the way.
It helped him on his way to a 13th ranking at the end of 2011 and cemented Flores as one of Europe’s and the world’s best surfers. Injury free and committed as ever, and still only 24 years old, he will remain at the elite of world surfing for a long as he chooses to do so. Whether it will be as an elite world tour performer, or as committed barrel riding charger, should be entirely up to him. – Ben Mondy
– Photos by Timo