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Beach Grit

What if: John John Florence quits the tour?

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Is the kick from a contest win, a title, enough to keep Florence on the chain gang?

An anecdote from the Founders’ Cup,

John John Florence and the company’s CEO Sophie Goldschmidt are engaged in a pained conversation about…something. Body language suggests the blond Chippendale world champion is unhappy and she is trying to engage and fix. Word on the street is that Goldschmidt had been trying to get an audience with her champ for some time. 

Earlier, the pool had neutralised all those advantages, knowledge of the ocean, an ability to adapt to a moving canvas instinctually, that Florence had developed after a lifetime lived at the world’s most challenging wave. A closeup of Florence’s face flashes a Halloween pumpkin grin after another girl shows there ain’t a hell of a lot of diff, in the pool at least, between her and the best surfer alive. 

Best air? A speciality award don’t help. It’s still a long dick in the guts. 

Back track. Margarets. Florence loves the joint. It’s where he plays his most sizzling tracks. A scabrous network of the risk adverse gets the event, his event, cancelled. 

Back track. Bells. Zeke Lau eats Florence alive, effortlessly, flawlessly. 

You think your world champ, the first surfer to defend a title since Kelly Slater, needs this? 

Is the kick from a contest win, a title, enough to keep Florence on the chain gang? To keep him in pressurised aluminium cylinders from Australia to Honolulu to Lemoore and now Rio, just so he can be pecked at and paddled ragged? 

Two world titles, a house at Log Cabins big enough for whomever wants floor space, the boat that’s rattling at its anchor chain, dying for a Pacific crossing, a sponsor that might be persuaded that a series of John John Florence films might be a better return on their multi-million dollar investment than a series of forgettable WCT results offers a velvet-lined escape hatch. 

Is the kick from a contest win, a title, enough to keep Florence on the chain gang? To keep him in pressurised aluminium cylinders from Australia to Honolulu to Lemoore and now Rio, just so he can be pecked at and paddled ragged?

What if John John Florence quits the tour?

What’s left? Kelly ain’t coming back in any meaningful sense anytime soon. 

Could Italo, Gabriel, maybe Jordy or Julian be the new hub the tour revolves around? 

What gap would Florence leave? 

Big, small, unimportant? 

I remember the game of brinkmanship the former ASP CEO Brodie Carr played with Kelly Slater in 2010. A rebel tour was in the wings and Slater wanted changes to his ASP contract. At the time, each surfer had a contract with the ASP agreeing, essentially, they wouldn’t surf in non-sanctioned events. Brodie risked being sacked by agreeing to a special contract for Slater without board approval. 

“The simple truth is, I didn’t want to be the ASP CEO who lost Kelly Slater from the tour,” said Brodie. 

Fast forward eight years and you’re the tour CEO who has lost Cloudbreak, Trestles and the most significant surfer in the world. 

How do you feel? 

Hypothetically.