John John Florence was surfing like a man on a mission during the first half of 2019. After missing most of last year, his turns were as crisp as ever, air game surprisingly on-point as he sat atop the WSL leader board, giving many a surf fan thoughts of a third title. But any dreams of champagne showers and celebratory interviews were blown up with John John’s ailing ACL, which the two-time champ announced minutes ago that he ruptured last week during the Oi Rio Pro.
“This has been a really fun year in competition and outside of the jersey,” he wrote on Instagram. “Unfortunately, in Brazil I ruptured my ACL. I’ll be pulling out of J-Bay and likely the rest of the CT season. I’m opting for surgery so I can be 100% next year.”
Health and John John were in a tenuous relationship to begin with. He suffered a three-quarters tear last year and flew around the world soliciting opinions, clearly hoping to avoid surgery. After visiting a hi-tech rehab clinic in Costa Mesa, California, he opted to avoid the knife. But he admittedly never had a clear picture on whether or not the ACL was actually healed. “MRIs are a funny thing,” he told me in a recent interview. “I had five different doctors look at the MRI but say different things. The art of reading an MRI is mysterious. Some looked like it had kind of healed back, others there looked like detachment from the bone.”
Along with the rest of the surfing universe, I obviously have a soft spot in the chest for the man’s talents but had doubts he could make it through another year given the way he rides waves. John John don’t surf old. He doesn’t grind out heats. He wins them with every bit of his being. Which doesn’t bode well riding a three-quarters tear to an ACL.
John John exits stage left having won Margaret River and Bells, opening up an incredibly tight race between Kolohe Andino, Filipe Toledo, Jordy Smith, Kanoa Igarashi and Italo Ferreira, all seeking their first titles, while the GOAT lurks at number seven.
That title chase would have been more fun to watch with the North Shore’s favorite son in the mix. Heal up quick John John.