John John brings 1st world title home to Hawaii

It was always when, not if. That’s been abundantly clear for years. But that inevitable “when” was officially defined Tuesday morning as John John Florence clinched his first WSL Championship Tour world title.

Delivering on all the promise he’s exhibited throughout his young career, Florence put the finishing touches on his 2016 run to the title by winning the Rip Curl Pro Portugal and putting his season points total out of reach from all competitors.

It’s not only Florence’s first world title, but it also means the world title returns to Hawaii for the first time since Andy Irons’ three consecutive championships (2002-2004).

Though John John has been categorized as the sport’s future, he’s been consistently racking up results in the present. It’s simply been a matter of maintaining his highest of high ceilings for a full calendar year.

In one of the strangest seasons in some time, this final result seems to be the only thing that makes complete sense. There have been multiple “passing the torch” moments between Kelly Slater and John John, but it was all leading to this eventuality. Now that he’s climbed the leaderboard and rests at its summit, Florence, just 24 years old, has already put together one of the greatest careers in surfing history.

He’s a world title holder, a Triple Crown winner and an Eddie Aikau champion. He’s breaking new ground with not just his maneuvers in the water, but his increasingly jaw-dropping resume.

The only missing ingredient seems to be a Pipe Masters title. He’ll have a chance to add that final notch in December, when he enjoys his hometown curtain call.

What a way to close the year that will be. No pressure. The yellow jersey remaining in his locker no matter the result. All he gets to do is go out there and scour the lineup for the best waves he can find.

And he always seems to find them.

Young athletes are often comparable to wild animals. We see their raw potential, their eagerness. We remark that if they were just able to harness everything they have within themselves, it would create an almost impossibly dominant specimen.

It didn’t take long for John John to harness what he has and he only has to harness a small piece of it to be utterly dominant. We’re seeing the early stages of what is destined to be a legendary lifetime in the water.

The world title has come home. It just might be here to stay.


David Simon can be reached at


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