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Hells Bells—John John Florence Is Back in Yellow

It’s been a rough 12 months for Hawaii’s favorite surfer. After putting in a groundbreaking performance at last year’s Margaret River Pro, John John looked set to win his third world title in a row. But then a knee injury sustained in Bali before the Keramas event sidelined him, ending his title campaign and putting him out of the water for nearly a year.

Well John John is back in the water and back in the competitor’s jersey—and as of a few days ago, he’s back in the driver’s seat of the world tour. After a third place result on the Gold Coast in the year’s first event, he rolled into a tricky forecast at Bells and dominated from day one. The first few rounds ran in small, windy surf, and for awhile it looked like that was all we were going to get. But then the “50-Year Storm” popped up on the forecast for the least three days of the waiting period, and suddenly there was little doubt about who was going to dominate.

The final two days were run in triple-overhead+ Bells Bowl—one day under blustery, bumpy conditions, and one day with classic clean lines peeling across the historic lineup. Both days were challenging and make most of the world tour competitors look lost and confused, but John John and Gabriel Medina were on fire. The fact that the two event standouts had to meet in the quarterfinals was a bit of a bummer (caused by the new seeding structure on tour), but that heat definitely lived up to the hype. John John came out on top, then stormed to the finals after beating Jordy Smith, and eventually taking down Felipe Toledo for the win.

The interesting thing about the event—aside from the fact that John John finally range his first bell, and is now right back where he belongs at the top of the ratings—is that the last two days were entirely about the rail. With Bells Bowl big and beefy and a bit unruly, you didn’t see anyone boosting airs—which means that for the first time in a long time, an event was won strictly on the back of carves. And if John John has proven anything over the past couple of years, it is that he has one of the best power carves in the business. The fact that he also has a top-notch air game and is arguably the best barrel rider in the world is the reason that he is now the undisputed favorite for the world title. Sure, we may only be two events into the year, but this is already looking like another one of those years that we have gotten used to celebrating here in Hawaii.

So pull out the Two Johns hats and t-shirts and get into the competitive spirit, because this is shaping up to be an epic year. The next event is in Bali—let’s see what Florence can do there!