THE VIC­TORY LAP

Tracks - - FULL - WORDS: BEN BUG­DEN PHOTO: TREVOR MO­RAN

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.

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