John John Florence has always been the guy that everyone knows will win a world title. This year, however, is the first where it seems as though he’s taking it seriously. It takes more than just surfing well to win a title, and Florence has taken out all the stops. Including Bede Durbidge as a coach of sorts, he’s worked on his heat strategy, and it’s working. This is his best start ever in his career, and this is the first time he’s ever been number one in the world on the WCT. “Now that he’s committed to this world title,” said Martin Potter, “I don’t think it’s if, I think it’s when.”
With Matt Wilkinson’s incredible start to the year, the guy no one expected to don the yellow jersey has held onto it since the start of the year, forcing everyone else to chase what was, for a while, an incredible lead. But now, with John John’s fifth round heat win over Joel Parkinson at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, Wilkinson has lost it and JJF has taken over as the points leader.
It wasn’t an easy win, though. After the first half of the event, Parkinson needed an 8.97 to take the lead. Which, in typical Parkinson fashion, he got. With an incredible backhand tube, the judges awarded him a 9.07. John John fell on his next two waves, broke a board, and got back at it. With just over 4 minutes left in the heat, John John took a wave under priority and scored an 9.33, putting Parkinson in a very tough position–one he wouldn’t be able to fight his way out of. With 2 minutes on the clock, Joel needed a 9.24. When the horn sounded, Florence emerged victorious, but realistic. “It’s awesome,” he said about his freshly minted spot. “I’m super stoked on that… it’s still a long year–we’re only halfway through.”
When Matt Wilkinson lost to Bruno Santos in round three, the door opened wide for John John and Gabriel Medina. If Medina wins the event, he’ll take the yellow jersey and walk away with the world number one slot. “There’s a great chance that Gabe could win this event,” said Ross Williams. “He’s a competitive beast out here.”