Besting Slater, Curren and Dora!
I’ve been chewing on a delicious piece of gristle for the past week courtesy of the world’s foremost and only surf historian Matt Warshaw. He and Derek Rielly’s conversations have, since the very beginning, been my favorite part about this little website. Each is finer than the last and the last was very fine. They discussed Gerry Lopez turning 70, modern myth making etc. and Matt also listed his five pantheon of greatest surfers in order.
Duke, Dora, Lopez, Slater, Curren.
Now, we both could and should have fun creating the definitive list but I had a thought this morning and I believe it to be a true thought. If John John Florence continues along his current path would he not be the most intriguing, the most beguiling surfer in all of history? And let me explain.
John John was born in the surf imagination. He arrived, fully formed as a long-hair’d Monchichi there on Oahu’s North Shore dazzling onlookers with his preternatural talents. It’s ever so rare to witness a prodigy transition easily through adolescence into adulthood, take the case of Macaulay Culkin, but John John did. He somehow made it onto the Championship Tour without looking foolish groveling in Japanese beachbreak, won back to back titles gracefully and now he is sailing and paddling around the world, dropping in to release clips that expand the very nature of what we love.
He has made surfing fit into his own dream, getting paid a fortune while wearing it lightly, surfing brilliantly but never with a chip on his shoulder. Dane’s greatness, if you would permit a comparison, is that he is human all too human. That last “things I hate” feature was so brilliant because it highlighted Dane’s internal dichotomies. His wrestle with meaning. John’s transcendence over struggle, though, puts him in a category of his own.
Likewise, when compared with Lopez. Of course the zen master narrative is gorgeous but there are enough stories floating around of the great Gerry snapping and growling that it has always felt slightly manufactured. Not by Lopez, necessarily, but my us.
John John’s narrative is… effortless. And isn’t effortlessness the very pinnacle of this Peruvian dance? This surfing?
Thus, I would argue that if John John Florence continues on his current path, whatever that path is as long as it doesn’t include one drop of sweat on his brow, he will become the most beguiling surfer in the pantheon and second only, in terms of greatness, to Duke.