John John Florence (HAW) clinched the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Title at the Billabong Pipe Masters, making him the first male surfer since the late Andy Irons (HAW) to successfully defend a maiden world title (Irons was ’02, ’03).
Mark Richards (AUS), Tom Carroll (AUS) and Tom Curren (USA) are the only other male surfers to have achieved this feat.
“It’s been my dream to win here at home,” Florence said.
“There’s been a nervous build up to this event and I just don’t know what to say, I’m shaking. So many people have been here for me this year and it’s been awesome. It’s been an awesome year and I’m just so stoked.”
Florence’s season started out with strong results during the Australian leg, including his first event win of the year in Margaret River. After two 13th place finishes in Rio and Fiji, Florence steadily improved his results through the remainder of the season. With a 5th place in both Jeffreys Bay and Tahiti, followed by Semifinal berths at Trestles and in France, Florence reclaimed the Jeep Leader Jersey from closest rival Jordy Smith (ZAF).
Challengers Smith, Owen Wright (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Adriano de Souza (BRA) all suffered early eliminations in Portugal, falling out of reach of the title. Going into the Billabong Pipe Masters, only four surfers remained in contention to clinch the title, but contenders Gabriel Medina (BRA), Julian Wilson (AUS), and Smith weren’t able to deliver the results needed to block Florence at his home break in Hawaii. Florence’s victory was sealed after Medina was eliminated today in the Quarterfinals at the hands of eventual event winner Jeremy Flores (FRA).
“I think I learned a lot about myself this year competing with all the pressure, especially coming from last year’s win,” Florence continued. “It’s been a hard year and I’ve had some ups and some downs, but mostly I had a lot of fun. I think that’s what came out of last year and I really, really wanted to enjoy every moment of it.”
Universally-regarded as one of the best all-around surfers, Florence has diligently worked at improving since qualifying for the elite WSL Championship Tour (CT) in 2011. A seven-year competitor on the CT, the surfer form Hawaii claimed his maiden title in 2016 with an early-season clinch in Portugal, having previously finished in the Top 5 twice before (4th in 2012 and 3rd in 2014). With this second title, the surfing world is eyeing the beginning of a new dynasty in high-performance surfing.
“It’s been scary being that close in points to someone like Gabriel (Medina) who’s such a great surfer out here and a fierce competitor,” said Florence. “His comeback in Europe was amazing, he won two events in a row and then was right there in the title race. Surfing with him out here has been nerve racking but it would have been cool if we had a final for the title.
“I couldn’t have done it without my guys traveling with me and I have to thank my mom for all this because she took me and my brothers traveling when we were young and really just got us to love the ocean and I think that’s what we’re all in this for – the love of surfing – so thank you, mom, I wouldn’t be here without you.”
In addition to cementing his status as the best surfer on the planet, Florence spends his free time and celebrity working toward ocean health initiatives and environmental causes.
FLORENCE 2017 WSL CT RESULTS –
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast: 3rd
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro: WINNER
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: 3rd
Oi Rio Pro: 13th
OK Fiji Pro: 13th
Corona Open J-Bay: 5th
Billabong Pro Tahiti: 5th
Hurley Pro at Trestles: 3rd
Quiksilver Pro France: 3rd
Meo Rip Curl Pro Portugal: 5th
Billabong Pipe Masters: 2nd
FLORENCE CAREER WSL CT FINISHES:
2016: WSL CHAMPION
2017: WSL CHAMPION
WSL Jeep Leaderboard Top 5 (after Billabong Pipe Masters):
1 – John John Florence (HAW) 59,600 pts
2 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 53,700 pts
3 – Julian Wilson (AUS) 48,650 pts
4 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 47,600 pts
5 – Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 40,700 pts