Can We All Just Agree That John John Is The Best Surfer In The World Right Now? – Sean Doherty On…

7 Oct 2014 16

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

Is this the big turning point for Mr. John John Florence? Photo: Digby Ayton

Is this the big turning point for Mr. John John Florence? Photo: Digby Ayton

The Orange Jersey
By Sean Doherty

Can we throw your ratings away for a minute and just agree that John John Florence, right now, is the best surfer in the world?

No voices of dissent? What was that… Steph Gilmore you say? I like your lateral thinking, but no, not even the syrupy shimmy of Steph can top what we’ve just seen from the Hawaiian kid in the past six weeks. After watching him surf to victory in France it was clear he’s currently hovering about an inch off the ground at a resonant Zen frequency. Still like a hummingbird. He should have surfed in orange. You could mount an argument that John John should also have won the previous two events in Tahiti and Trestles, but from the moment he paddled out into the crazy Bay of Biscay washing machine last week it looked inevitable he would win the French event, and that’s exactly what played out.

In Hossegor his actual surfing was just the proverbial tip of the iceberg… most of his magic you never even saw. He was shaking your hand while stealing your watch. Put it this way, in a field that included fabled wave conjurers and ocean readers like Kelly, Parko and Mick, John was the only guy who remotely made the line-up make any sense. The only guy to get any sort of rhythm going out there. With the North Atlantic dunny-flushing down the beach, chewing the break to pieces and creating giant black eddies that swallowed surfers whole, John John just toyed with it. No matter what he did he was in the right spot, and all his nine-point-rides were already nines by the time he planted his feet on his board.

Watching from home Sunday night my remote control was smoking as it flicked between John’s victory in France and Sam Burgess leading the South Sydney Bunnies to the league title. With ten minutes on the clock and as the Bunnies closed in on victory, their first title in 43 years, Burgess – who’d played the entire game with a fractured cheekbone and whose face looked like a hamburger – dropped to his knees in the middle of the pitch and started sobbing uncontrollably. It was too much. Burgess is a Yorkeshireman and only came to the battling Redfern club four years ago, but in that short time he’s put a value on that red and green jersey, learned what it meant to the blokes who’d pulled it on before, and become a cult hero in the process. He bled red and green on Sunday night. 

John John toyed with the French line-up at the Quiksilver Pro this week. Photo: Digby Ayton

John John toyed with the French line-up at the Quiksilver Pro this week. Photo: Digby Ayton

I flicked the channel and here was John John in a red jersey being carried up the beach in France after having predictably dismantled Brazilian, Jadson Andre in the final. There were no tears from John, no face like a hamburger, but there was something there. We’re so used to caring about how little John John seems to care about pro surfing, how it seems he could quite happily take or leave it, but after his French win you finally feel like he’s tapped into something. He’s got a sense of what winning a contest in this company means. He got up on stage full of joie de vivre and claimed the win in front of the big crowd and had his Sam Burgess moment. Finally, after three years on tour he’s cracked the code and suddenly the prospect of him winning the last two events of the season – Portugal and Pipe – doesn’t seem just possible, it seems likely. Mathematically, if he did this and some other fruity results fell his way he could still win a World Title, but this won’t happen. Not this year, anyway.

France proved that while Gabe Medina will be the guy this year, like everyone other than John John he got hopelessly lost out there, never really clicked, but got as far as the quarters, which considering the lead he has in the ratings is about all he needs to do right now. Helping his cause, the French event was not a good one for the guys who needed to make serious ground on him in the World Title race. Parko and Mick both actually lost ground and need a miracle from here. Kelly meanwhile had a chance but got caught in the Bermuda Triangle in his quarter with Jordy and the chance to make ground on Gabby was gone.

Gabe will go into the Portugal event with a simple equation in his head – win Portugal, win the World Title. It’s a second-home event for him, Portugal being the colonial motherland and all, and he will eat dinner every night at Gaucho da Picanha and he will get in a groove and for the week of the event he will be Portugal’s new favourite son. It’s strange to think it was only two years ago when Gabe lost the final in Portugal to Julian Wilson on a whiffy call and petulantly stormed off toward the car park in tears. Well, things will be different this year. Gabe grown as a surfer but more as a person and he’ll be ready for this, and together with John John he’ll be ready to lead a long overdue generational transfusion of the pro tour, and it’ll start next week with Gabe winning the Title in Portugal.
Well, at least he should win.

Meanwhile, Kelly is at home studying a few choice Portuguese phrases, holding a small dog and pondering some outrageous Bond villain masterplan, knowing if he takes the World Title fight to Pipe with only the slightest chance of him winning, the generational revolution may be postponed well beyond next Tuesday.

John John gets chaired up the French sands through the French crowd at the French event he dominated. Photo: Digby Ayton

John John gets chaired up the French sands through the French crowd at the French event he dominated. Photo: Digby Ayton

MORE FEATURES BY SEAN DOHERTY

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