John Florence Gets Candid On The Player’s Tribune

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Florence sporting the yellow jersey | Image source: surfersvillage.com

People know John Florence as a two-time World Champ of surfing, a phenomenal athlete and an all-around nice guy, accommodating to fans and pleasant to autograph seekers and the occasional interviewer alike. However, for all his worldwide reknown, he remains relatively low-key and private, keeping to close friends and family when on his home turf.

So when the Player’s Tribune, known for pieces written personally by such athletic greats as Kobe Bryant, released an in-depth feature penned by the surfing World Champ himself, those of us wanting to know more were thrilled.

Here are a few excerpts from the piece, with the full text HERE.

The Florence siblings | Image source: pinterest.com

On childhood dawn patrol:

When I was little my brothers and our friends would always get together and plan things to do outside. Dawn patrol was our favorite. It was basically just waking up super early to go to the beach before anyone else got out there. But to us, it was a huge deal — the most exciting thing in the entire world.

We’d meet up the afternoon before and plot everything out like we were on a secret mission or something. We’d be so stoked about it all.

It was like, O.K., tomorrow morning … let’s do it. Dawn patrol!

We were so into this. It’s crazy.

We’d wake up in the dark and run out in front of the house super quiet, like it was a big secret that no one else could know about. Then we’d watch the sun come up and the clouds turn pink, and surf the little sandbars at first light. It would just be us out there in the water. And those little adventures were so exciting for us….

While they lasted.

The worst feeling in the world was the point when we realized we had to leave the beach. We’d be out in the water having fun and all of a sudden we’d realize, “We have to go to school!”

At that point, we’d try to push for more time.

Someone was always pushing it, like, “No … one more wave! Let’s get one more first!”

Then, when we couldn’t delay any longer, we’d throw on our T-shirts, grab our backpacks, and run across the street to school barefoot. (Our teachers were always so cool with it.) When school was over, I would do the reverse — run home barefoot and just go straight to the beach with my friends and my brothers. It didn’t matter if the waves were huge or small, we’d do that pretty much every day. And it was awesome.

John Florence celebrating victory with family and friends | Image source: vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com

On learning respect and a sense of family in Hawaii:

It’s like one big family here, for sure. And one of the things about being from Hawaii is that you grow up learning to respect your elders, and to have a lot of respect for other people around you. So that’s what this community is all about. The young kids respect the adults, and the adults are always looking out for the kids. Especially in the water. And that was a big deal for me, because I started surfing at Pipe when I was super young.

Because of the sense of community that exists on the North Shore, I always felt like I was being watched over by a lot of the older guys when I was in the water. It was just a really, really cool feeling, for sure.

More experienced surfers would check on me all the time and just make sure everything was O.K. This one time when I was 12 or so, I remember things were getting pretty interesting, some big waves. I was way out in the channel at Pipe, and kind of out of nowhere Nathan Fletcher — who’s a great surfer and waterman — paddles by and says, “Hey, John! You all good?”

I’m just this little kid sitting out there on his board. I probably looked terrified to him at the time. But there we were, you know?

I was like, “Yeah … I’m doing good.”

It was like we were passing each other in the supermarket aisle.

And then right after I said that, I remember watching him pull into one of the biggest barrels I’ve ever seen. Just this massive barrel … right in front of me.

He checked on me, and then he locked in and got his wave.

Forence competing at Bells | Image source: tracksmag.com.au

On changing his competition mindset:

So, yeah, a few years ago I realized that I’d basically been free surfing during events since I started competing. And that had been fine when I was younger and not trying to qualify.

But after all that losing, and after I broke my back, I came to a realization that competitions are actually a really unique opportunity to get to know yourself better, because you have all of these ups and downs and you have to figure out how to deal with those emotions.

I started to see competitions as a chance to learn about myself. And that’s when I really started improving. Now, as weird as it is to say, I almost think that competitions are more mentally gratifying for me than free-surfing sessions.

I love the challenge of it. You have to find that space you find when you’re free surfing with maybe another friend in the water and no one else around … but you have to find it with a few thousand people watching and announcers and pressure and all of these other factors.

I feel like I’ve been learning a lot about how to find that space, and about myself, and that’s made competitions something that I really, really look forward to.

I just needed to dig in and make it about learning.

CLICK HERE to read the entire feature, “The Ocean Is Everything”.

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