Hawaiian surfer John John Florence has won his first World Surfing Title after making the final of the Rip Curl Pro in Portugal.
The 24-year-old clinched his maiden crown after South African rival Jordy Smith was eliminated in the semi-finals.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so stoked!” Florence said after Smith’s loss. “It’s been a long year, the best of my life. So many fun events, I’ve learned a lot, I can’t believe I won the World Title.”
Florence has become the fourth Hawaiian world champ in the history of professional surfing, joining an honour role including Derek Ho, Sunny Garcia, and the late Andy Irons. Florence also became the first surfer since Kelly Slater in 2011 to win the world crown before the final event of the season.
“It’s really got to sink in. I was expecting it to go to Hawaii. My whole life has gone towards this, learning so much about competitive surfing. I couldn’t have done it without all the support I’ve had.”
But the celebrations didn’t end at the title for Florence, who capped off an amazing day by winning the event over Californian Conner Coffin. Florence surfed free and loose in the final, launching some huge airs to take the win, showcasing the progressive surfing that has made his video parts required viewing for surfers around the world.
“There’s so much to take in, a lot of emotions. I tried airs, I felt relaxed, I’m super stoked to win the event too. It’s been my dream to win the World Title ever since watching Kelly and Andy. I might cry or something later.”
A real surfers-surfer, social media has been awash with tributes to Florence’s victory.
Florence will head back to Hawaii to his home break for the season-ending Pipe Masters in December, where despite being the perennial favourite each year, he has never tasted victory.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. Now I’m just excited to go home. To be World Champion, I don’t know how to feel yet.” – Jackson Barron
Photo of John John from the WSL Twitter feed.