THE VICTORY LAP
It was almost a full lap of the sun ago, on the 25th of February 2016, when John Florence emerged from the shorebreak at Waimea Bay as the winner of the 2016 Eddie Aikau Invitational. It was the dream start to what would be a dream year for the then 23-yearold Hawaiian, one that would culminate with John becoming the 2016 World Champion of Surfing.
December rolled around and John was back on Hawaiian soil, World Title trophy tucked safely under arm. With all the hard work done the intention must have been to enjoy a pressure free victory lap at home, perhaps by bookending his year with a Triple Crown victory. Who knows, maybe John could even lay his hands on the Pipe Masters trophy, a victory he must desire more than any other, but has thus far eluded him.
That may have been the intention, but it would be far from pressure free. This winter the hometown spotlight was burning brighter than ever before. John John was the people’s champ. Tributes to him dotted the Kam Highway. It’s impossible to be impervious to that kind of hometown adulation and feel no sense of duty to win.
His campaign started flawlessly by taking out the Hawaiian Pro at Haliewa and things looked on track. An unscripted round four loss in the lottery that is the Vans World Cup at Sunset took a little shine off proceedings but there was still Pipe to come.
However, as we now know, John’s dream year didn’t end with a fairy-tale Victory at Pipe. That honour went to Michel Bourez, the same man who picked him off in the quarterfinals. He did however claim the Triple Crown for the third time – enough to satisfy the hometown fans. What is most exciting however is John still needs that Pipe Masters trophy for his mantelpiece, and that is no doubt enough to fuel his fire for 2017.