On Tuesday, 24-year-old Hawaiian-born surfer John John Florence clinched his first world title when he defeated Kolohe Andino in the semifinals of the 2016 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal and fellow semifinalist Jordy Smith failed to make the final.
Florence’s first world title is a monumental moment for the world of professional surfing. It serves as the coronation of an immense and almost universally loved surfing talent and brings the world title back to Hawaii for the first time since 2004.
“For as long as there has been surf competition, the conventional wisdom has been that the best surfer isn't always the guy holding the world title trophy at the end of the year,” SURFER editor Todd Prodanovich told GrindTV about Florence’s win.
“But Florence is a unique case,” he continued. “He's long been seen as the best freesurfer in the world, so for him to back that up competitively with a world title is a unique feat.”
According to Prodanovich, part of the reason why Florence’s first world title is so significant is the fact that Florence’s skill set has been widely proclaimed for as long as anyone can remember.
“Florence grew up on the North Shore, was getting pounded in the shore break before he could walk, started surfing Pipeline at five years old, competed in his first Vans Triple Crown at 13, and qualified for the championship tour at 19,” said Prodanovich.
“Based on that trajectory, it always seemed like he was destined to hoist a world title trophy eventually,” Prodanovich said. “It felt like it wasn't a matter of ‘if’ so much as ‘when.'”
Speaking to Prodanovich’s point, it really is hard to quantify just how prodigious of a talent Florence has been for basically the entirety of his young life.
A 2005 profile of a 13-year-old Florence by the St. Petersburg Times noted that Florence’s mother first put him on the nose of her surfboard when he was six months old, and the 2011 SURFER Hot 100 named him “arguably the best 18-year-old surfer in the history of the sport.”
At age 13 he became the youngest surfer to ever compete in the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, and in 2011 became the youngest to ever win it before repeating in 2013.
As he grew up, he developed a polite and laid-back attitude that endeared him to surfing fans, while still putting out otherworldly video parts, which lead to him winning the #1 men’s spot in the 2014 and 2015 SURFER Poll.
And in February, he won the revered Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau invitational big-wave contest in what is believed to be some of the best conditions in contest history.
“Like I said before, Florence is the best surfer in the world,” Prodanovich told GrindTV. “He can go toe-to-toe with the best aerialists in the world, get the deepest barrels of the season at Pipeline, and paddle into massive waves along Oahu's notorious outer reefs.”
“It's this versatility that really resonates with surf fans of all backgrounds, from all over the world,” he continued. “He checks all the boxes, which is incredibly rare in surfing, and that's why people are so captivated by him.”
Plus, at only 24 and finally beginning to really hone in his competition strategy, many believe this will only be the first of many titles for Florence.
“I'd put money on him being a title threat for the next five or ten years at least,” said Prodanovich. “My guess is that this won't be the last time we see Florence holding a title trophy.”
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