Truth be told nobody knew what to expect of John John Florence heading into this season. After his incredible run in 2016 (winning the Eddie, The Triple Crown, and the World Title) he certainly deserved to exhale.
It would have been perfectly understandable if the new World Champ took his foot off the gas this season — in fact many expected it from the low-key Hawaiian.
Florence is off to a stellar start in 2017. He’s already well ahead of his 2016 pace, and he’s surfing better too.
As good as John’s title run was last year, he was never as dominant as he was this week at Margaret River, where his heat totals at Main Break are now the stuff of legend. Round Three: 19.27, Round Four: 19.16, Quarterfinals: 18.04, Semifinals: 19:27, and in the Final, a 19.03.
Nobody on Tour is more comfortable in open-ocean lineups than Florence. His mastery of the lumpy and bumpy, the rips and rivers, the deep stuff, it’s untouchable. Main Break’s moodiness was giving most surfers a headache. Not Florence. It was a giant playground for him, with an uncanny resemblance to Pupukea rights, the wave in his backyard.
But there’s more going on here. His move to hire Ross Williams was the first signal that John John Florence has no intention of letting his foot off the gas.
John was the first to acknowledge that he had plenty to improve on. And Williams is the perfect man to milk it out of him. The former Tour star and former WSL commentator is one of John’s tribal elders at home, so the respect level is high. Williams’ can deliver lessons about equipment, heat strategy and mind space with both wit and wisdom. And it’s clear they’re working.
His surfing at Main Break was pure artistry. The twisting and torquing, the snapping and carving, it was simply beyond anything else we’ve seen, not just from Florence, but from anyone, ever.
With his win, Florence has already reclaimed the yellow Jeep Leader jersey, and just in case you didn’t get the message this week, he’s got no intention of letting off the gas.
Wilko won the first two events in a row last year, so we all know what can happen,” Florence said from the podium. “I’m just going to keep focusing on myself.”
If that’s the case that spells trouble for the rest, because a focused Florence is going to be very hard to stop.