John John Florence wins 2017 WSL World Title
En route to his second consecutive WSL World Title, Hawaii's John John Florence, 25, has established himself as the best surfer on the planet. Humble and soft-spoken, he's happy to let his surfing do the talking, but when he paddles out, it's a whole different story. Utterly dominant in heavy, hollow reef breaks, with the world title race coming down to the Pipeline Masters, the deck was stacked in his favor. Growing up on the beach at Pipeline, he put together a dream run to clinch the title and almost won the Pipe Masters if it hadn't been for some last-second heroics by Frenchman Jeremy Flores to steal away the win in dramatic fashion.
John John's awesome year
"It's been my dream to win here at home," Florence said. "There's been a nervous buildup 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."
Sealed the deal
It's often said about Florence that he makes riding the tube at Backdoor Pipeline look too easy. With his casual style and relaxed stance, he's able to thread his way through one of the world's most fearsome tubes. A testament to his talent, heat after heat he was able to lock into waves like this and seal the deal on his second WSL World Title.
Ups and downs
"I think I learned a lot about myself this year competing with all the pressure, especially coming from last year's win," said Florence. "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."
Florence owes a lot of his surf style to all the time he's spent on a skateboard over the years. One of his good friends is Element Skateboards pro Greyson Fletcher, and when the two aren't owning their respective disciplines, chances are you can find them pushing around the Banzai skateboard across the street from Pipeline.
A love for travel
"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."
Twice a Pipe Master, Jeremy Flores struggled through most of his 2017 WSL campaign, but he found his groove when it counted. With virtually no time left on the clock, Flores locked into a perfect cylinder and got the score he needed to upset Florence.
What dreams are made of
"This is what you dream about, beating John John Florence in the last second at Pipeline. I don't even know what to say right now. This is a dream come true," said Flores.
"I wasn't sure if I got the score or not. I was going to be happy either way. I'm happy I was able to put on a good show for all the fans, but to get the win, that's something that's really special," added Jeremy Flores.
Looking to 2018
Another historic Pipeline Masters is in the books with two very worthy champions. The Pipe Masters title has eluded Florence thus far, but don't think for a minute he won't use that as motivation as he starts to think about what 2018 has in store.
Triple Crown winner
Griffin Colapinto just qualified for the world tour and became the first Californian to ever win the Triple Crown. To say it was a good winter for the kid is a huge understatement. "I was just looking at the names that have won the Triple Crown, just all the names on there are insane and to win after John John won last year is amazing," said Colapinto. "It's been a really fun day watching the contest and to see all the action. John, congratulations on winning the world title, I'm so stoked for you. And Jeremy winning the Pipe Masters, two times now, that's insane. Just really excited for next year and for Snapper, and I think there will be a lot of energy there, and to have my name on a jersey will be special."
Coming back for 2018
Brazilian Gabriel Medina had a very real shot at winning the world title in Hawaii. He had dominated all of his early heats, but when Flores beat him in the quarterfinals, the race was over. Medina is hands-down one of the most competitive surfers on tour, and with a rivalry brewing between him and Florence, the next few years should bring out the best in both of them. "I had an injury at the beginning of the year, which wasn't great, but I tried to do my best," said Medina. "I had some bad results but I also had some great results. I'm so tired right now because I put everything in the water. I just tried to never give up because there's always a chance no matter what's going on. That was a long year and it's hard to deal with all the ups and downs. That's all part of the game, you just have to do your best. My goal here was the final, but I'm stoked everyone got to watch and I'm coming back for next year.
Kelly Slater returned to competition at the Pipe Masters after breaking his foot over the summer in South Africa. He made a few heats, but when push came to shove and there was a world title on the line, Medina got the best of the 11-time world champ.
The consummate showman, Kelly Slater took Gabriel Medina's abuse of the rulebook in stride.
World tour rookie Ian Gouveia surged into the semifinals and had a shot at upsetting Florence, but he ended the heat less than a half a point off the newly-minted world champ.
For veteran Joel Parkinson, his quarterfinal finish at the Pipe Masters was satisfying. With the offseason now upon him, he's faced with the tough choice of retiring from the tour or giving it a go for another season. He's hinted that he may step away, but considering he's still able to go toe-to-toe with the youngsters on tour, don't be surprised if he changes course.