For as many surfers who are critical of the ASP's new two-tiered system, the elite 32-man World Tour, and the mid-season shuffles, there are those who it's working out for. It certainly worked out for John John Florence, who lives mere steps from Pipeline.
The funny thing is, you might not expect Florence to join the tour mid-season as he did. The Brazilian leg and the California Prime events wouldn't seem conducive to his surfing. You'd expect him to get on for the start of the year, following a strong showing in Hawaii.
But Florence put together the points he needed, including a Volcom Pipeline Pro win back in January to shuffle into the top 32. And he's done pretty well to prove he belongs there. It's quite an adjustment for a kid who just turned 19. And now he's going to sleep in his own bed while he surfs the Vans Triple Crown.
ESPN: So, you're on tour now. Is it everything you've ever dreamed?
Florence: It's definitely different than what I expected from the time I was little. It's hard. You have to go into every event with 100 percent confidence and just surf your best because everyone there is there to win and no one is going to give you the heat. You have to win by a mile to really make a heat.
The last interview we did was in your tree house. A lot has changed since then. What has been the hardest part of adjusting to the tour, in and out of the water?
Yeah, ever since I got on the tour my schedule has been crazy. Going to contests back to back, World Tour and Primes, I've noticed a lot more things with my surfing that could be improved for my heats to improve. Staying focused throughout all of those events for months at a time is hard to adjust to, but definitely fun.
Of the guys who've done some miles on tour, who has been the most helpful?
That's a hard one because everyone on the tour is really into what they're doing and focused on winning. No one wants to tell you their secrets because you never know when you might get a heat with them. Kelly has told me a couple things.
What has he said to help you out?
He didn't say much, just some things that I could improve.
You finished 13th at Trestles and 9th in Portugal. A lot of people expected you to only excel in hollow waves. But you've proven pretty versatile.
Like I said earlier, you have to go into every event with 100 percent confidence that you're going to do well and no matter the waves or the weather, you have to find the right board and heat strategy.
Do you feel like you've gotten some instant respect just because of where you're from and your reputation at Pipe?
Maybe a little, but that's just because I've been surfing out here for so long -- it's the same as Nat Young at the Lane or Kolohe Andino at Lowers, you know. It's your home spot and you surf there every day.
After some of these heats, you must get online and connect with friends back home. What do you tell them?
Yeah, you know I talk to my friends at home all the time but I don't talk about the contests really, mostly just about home and chicks and everything (laughs.) But then a lot of my friends are on the road doing contests as well.
I imagine you're just completely fired up for the Vans Triple Crown. How will this year be different?
I'm so stoked, I can't wait. Just being home and surfing in warm water will be fun. This year is pretty different though, because I'm going into it much more focused and in more of a contest mode.