Have you ever heard of The Players’ Tribune? Derek Jeter, the former New York Yankees shortstop, founded it a few years back. It’s all first-person stories from athletes, including videos and podcasts. Oh, what an idea! Imagine if a website had first-person stories from Kelly Slater or Gerry Lopez or Rob Machado?
Well, John John Florence, everyone’s favorite surfer, is the latest to pen his story for The Players’ Tribune. He dishes it all out. Well, not all… but lots. It’s a wonderful peek into the mind of the guy who rules the world of surfing right now. Here are a few choice selections from it… but you should really read the whole thing:
On Mom John:
“She surfs every day. Always has. When I was growing up, she was on the water any chance she got. And to this day, when she’s not working or surfing, my mom is at the skatepark. She loves skating almost as much as she loves surfing.
I remember these times when I was super young, like eight or so, and the waves were pretty big … and I was a little bit scared to go out on my board. My mom wouldn’t make me go, or pressure me, or anything like that. She’d just look at me and kind of shrug her shoulders and say, “O.K., well I’m going out.”
It was like … O.K., bye.
And I’d just kind of look at her like, Wait … what? You’re going out?
This is at Pipeline, mind you, right in front of our house on the beach on the North Shore. There are really big waves in the winter. Serious stuff. And, this is my mom.”
On the North Shore:
“I love pretty much everything about it, but there are two main things that really define where I come from:
First, the ocean is everything here.
My life has revolved around the ocean since the beginning, and it’s like that with everyone in this community. The North Shore kind of has a small town feeling to it. Everyone knows everyone, and it seems like everybody here has something to do with the ocean.
That love for the ocean is just inside of you if you grow up here — whether you’re fishing, or surfing, or bodysurfing, or a million other things, you can always find something fun to do in the ocean. So it’s a really cool center point that we all have here.”
On growing up at one of the heaviest waves on earth:
“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.”
‘I think a lot of people assume surfing came easy for me. But that’s definitely not the case.
I started competing in events when I was really young. One result of that is you end up losing a lot.
At first, that was fine. As a super young kid, I loved traveling around to different islands for little surfing events because I met so many friends that way. It was just a fun way to spend your weekends. We’d all pack up and go to Kauai or Maui, and the contest would be on and you would just be hanging out with your friends all day.
Everything about that was fun.
But when I decided to compete in the Qualifying Series for a spot on the World Surf League Championship Tour, the losing part became, I don’t know … less fun.
I just kept losing and losing and losing. I was nowhere near qualifying. I’d make one heat, and then I would lose again. And it just continued like that for two or three years.
At one point I considered giving it up and doing something else.”
On breaking his back at Pipeline and how it changed how he looked at surfing:
“I was 18, and it was the type of wave I’d ridden a million times. But the ocean is unpredictable, especially at Pipeline … and for whatever reason this wave decided that, instead of barreling, it was going to rise up and then slam down right on my back.
I was out for four months, which was brutal.
But because of that injury, my whole mindset shifted. I was so excited to get back in the water and surf again, and within a year I qualified for the Championship Tour.
At that point I sort of realized what had been holding me back for so long in competitions.
It was all about my approach.”