Florence, John John
Lanky pro surfing wunderkind from the North Shore of Oahu; two-time winner of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (2011, 2013), with his first coming at age 19—the youngest champion in the storied event's history; world-ranked #4 in 2012.
Florence, a bleach-blonde, blue-eyed, well-tanned surf industry marketer's dream, called the "original super grom" by ESPN's Jake Howard, was all but preordained for a life of surf stardom. He was born (1992) in Haleiwa to Alexandra Florence, a single mother and talented longboarder who strapped young John John into a life vest and pushed him into his first waves as a toddler. By eight-years old the pint-size regularfooter was riding smaller days at the Pipeline; four years later he was learning the ropes at Waimea Bay.
In 2005, at 13, Florence was given a wildcard entrance slot to the Vans Triple Crown and surfed in all three events (Haleiwa, Sunset Beach, and Pipeline) becoming the series' youngest-ever competitor. Though he grew up just across the sand from Pipeline, fellow locals were shocked at how quickly Florence grew accustomed to powerful surf. "I remember seeing him out there," fellow North Shore hellion Jamie O'Brien recalled, "and I'm thinking 'God, he's fucking young, he's going to get drilled. And he did. But he never gave up."
The most gifted tuberider of his generation, Florence complemented his preternatural ease in big hollow surf with above-the-lip tail throws and a full repertoire of aerial maneuvers, whipping his long-limbed frame (6'0", 180 lbs) into air reverses with a casualness learned from years spent skating halfpipes.
After a string of national amateur titles, Florence qualified for the ASP World Tour at the end of 2011. Earlier that year, the 19-year-old won both the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach, as well as two Pipeline events: the Volcom Pipe Pro and the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout. He notched his first win on the WCT at the Billabong Pro Rio. "Kid doesn’t surf with the restrictions of most," Stab magazine observed a few weeks later. "He doesn’t care about dizzying heights, hell-sent barrels, or knee-break landings. And everything stays so buttery smooth!"
Done, Florence's first biopic, was released in 2013. He also had star turns in Lost Atlas (2010) and Dear Suburbia (2012), both made by Kai Neville.