Hawaii's John John Florence. Who doesn't love that kid? At last week's Billabong Pro Tahiti, Florence dropped a perfect 10 in Round 3 with one of the biggest barrel to snap combos of the event. After spending the week prior surfing the infamous South African big-wave venue, Dungeons, Florence was on a roll in the perfect, overhead surf on offer at Teahupoo.
Ultimately he came up short in the quarterfinals (where he dropped another 10-point ride), but the effort helped him climb to No. 14 in the world -- after missing two events with an ankle injury.
All of this points to Florence as an eventual world title contender, if not a future world champ. But how do we know that he's really arrived? Look no further than 11-time world champion Kelly Slater dancing in his head. The champ doesn't mess with just anyone. He's notorious for playing the psyche game with only his most respected opponents. See Slater's "I love you" whisper into the ear of Andy Irons before they paddled out for a Pipe Masters final.
When ESPN interviewed Florence in late 2011, he mentioned that Slater had given him some brief advice for his first year. But now that he's fully arrived, Slater appears to be flexing a little in the channel at Teahupoo, having some fun with the kid before his heat. As part of Hurley's "Tour Notes" video series, they produced "Channel Life" during the Billabong Pro Tahiti, capturing some gems of Slater ribbing the young Hawaiian. The two were using the same boat as their base for the day.
"If we were both to make the final, would you go switch-foot with me the whole time?" asks Slater, whose mind-bending can be as powerful as his bottom turn. The question is also a nod to Shane Dorian, who according to both Slater and Dorian, has taken off switch on the first wave in every heat they've surfed together. Florence doesn't seem quite sure how to respond.
Slater then chides the prodigy to claim a wave or he won't be allowed back to the boat. Florence obviously holds Slater in high regard, so he goes out and nails his second perfect 10 -- but doesn't claim it.