Holiday repeat: The remarkable voyage of Mom John Florence!

Want to know the Champ? Get to know his one-of-kind mama…

How about we start at the beginning? Back in 1986, when Alex Florence, from Ocean Grove, a Christian seaside community, in New Jersey (yeah, the not-so-glam part of New York) and the sweetest of sixteens, told her parents she was going to the North Shore and asked if they’d, like, mind, driving her to La Guardia airport.

The surfing thing had been in her head ever since she was 12 and she was soaking her brain every day in surf movies like Beyond Blazing Boards and riding skateboards all over town and surfing in oversized wetsuits.

One day Alex was sitting in the room of one of her pals watching surf vids on the portable television set with the giant video cassette recorder hooked up and said: “I’m going to be one of those girls!”

With a backpack and a skateboard and a couple of c-notes in her purse, the lil blonde teenager landed in Honolulu, walked out to the Nitmiz and just stuck out her thumb. She stepped off in Haleiwa where another gal, who was 19 but seemed so worldly, picked her up and said,

“Say, girl, do you need a job?”

Uh, yeah.

Well, we’re filming this movie, North Shore and…”

Do what I did and download the movie and check out the Halloween party scene 20 minutes in. Sure is a scene. Laird Hamilton is in lycra pants and his bare torso is painted in purple and lime zinc. A bearded Gerry Lopez is the Hui leader Vince, sullen, supping beers and looking evilly serene in a red bomber jacket and yellow tee. And, there, but don’t blink, is Mom John squeezing past the female lead Kiani and the Arizona wave pool champ Rick Kane. Yep, that shoulder length tangle of permed blond hair in the leopard skin lycra is the same gal who, five years, later would birth the first of three remarkable kids.

But, this is 1986, and, man alive, ain’t there some partying to do! The set of North Shore, which also starred eighties surf star Rob Page and perennial icon Mark Occhilupo, is a 21-day bender.

Three weeks ends too fast and Alex needs a place to crash and a job. She scoops up a room at Velzyland, just south of Sunset, and the most Hawaiian of the North Shore’s beachfront neighbourhoods. Fifty bucks a month for her room and Alex becomes one of five gals on the North Shore that actually surfs

And, yeah, V-Land is tough but the heavies take a liking to this tiny blonde thing, this little sister from the mainland. Back then, the gnarliest cat was a guy called Junior Boy Moepono, 150-plus kilos of Polynesian threat. And, for whatever reason, Junior kept a protective arm around Alex.

Later, Alex’d move to Kauai for a year, setting up at Hanalei Bay, right where the Irons kids grew up and then she’d take off to Bali for six months. Australian surfers taught her how to ride a motorbike in Poppies Lane. She hopped a boat to Lombok for a while and then did the 24-hour bemo-ferry run to G-Land where she got so lit up by malaria she had to call her parents to get flown home.

But, do you think little Alex can live in Ocean Grove?

Chasing money and more adventure, Alex grabbed a cruise shop waitress gig with a gal pal who happened to a beauty who’d just won the Miss San Antonia beauty pageant. Her friend brought along her boyfriend and together they cruised the Caribbean.

Soon, more adventure. This time Europe as a backpacker. The couple had split back on the cruise ship and Alex and the guy travelled to Europe, strictly as pals. Separate beds. Totally on the level.

But, then, one night in Austria.

A few drinks.


Stumbling into the cold night.

One night.

One night in 1990 and the creation of John John Florence, named after the American president’s little boy, the kid who bravely saluted his Dad’s coffin in front of millions of Americans. Yeah, that’s a name that has strength, that has courage.

Alex remembers driving in her ancient Valiant, the ex-husband gone, John, five, Nathan, three, Ivan, a baby at one-and-a-half, looking over at her little boys and saying: “What do you guys want to do? We don’t have to do anything or be anywhere? We can stay out til 10:30! We can go to thrift stores!”

The partnership didn’t work. How could it? Three little boys. Ain’t a lot of cash in the house they rented at Rocky Point. Dad soon disappeared into the penal system.

Alex remembers driving in her ancient Valiant, the ex-husband gone, John, five, Nathan, three, Ivan, a baby at one-and-a-half, looking over at her little boys and saying: “What do you guys want to do? We don’t have to do anything or be anywhere? We can stay out til 10:30! We can go to thrift stores!”

Alex took her kids everywhere and despite what y’might call a massive hand break, felt this sudden freedom. A total freedom. She took them everywhere. And that summer after the Dad split Alex packed up the house and with her three little ducklings that followed her everywhere, flew to Bingin in Bali where she knew a local family who’d let ’em stay in their warung, cheap.

Sure, she didn’t have much money, but here they were living on 10 dollars a day, and they stretched out their resources ($1200) for a sublime four months. Little Ivan, who was just over two then, had broken his leg on the trampoline before they’d split but Alex was cool, she just carried her kid everywhere.

Back on the Shore, Herbie Fletcher, a pioneer of jetskis in the surf, was towing John John into bombs when he was seven. Here they were, back at Rocky Point, just one house back from the sand, funded by taking in up to 10 boarders at a time, squeezing ’em into three bedrooms. Alex’d let floorspace for $250 a month. Whatever it took.

They built a half-pipe in the yard. Magazines British Vogue, US Vogue and Elle couldn’t help themselves when they heard about this gorgeous solo surf mom and her shaggy haired boys. Alex felt like she had a guardian angel. No money, but she was on the beach, was feeding her three boys and, well, you tell me that this ain’t the life.

Meanwhile, Alex was studying for her degree in English literature at the University of Honolulu. And, this is where it gets real good. Alex says that if you saw the size of her student loans, which she’s only just paid off, you’d think she was the “gnarliest surgeon ever.”

But, her gig was using her loans to support the family, to raise the kids. She didn’t want to leave her kids with just anybody. So she went to school at nights and took in boarders. Yeah, sometimes dinner was corn flakes, but the kids were playing outside in the sun and were getting pushed (or towed) into waves by a role call of surfing icons including Nathan Fletcher, Danny Fuller, Kala and Kamalei Alexander, Herbie Fletcher and Pete Johnson.

Jamie O’Brien, too, but he was always a little crazy and’d sometimes throw dog shit at the kids. But, he also got John into contests and pushed into waves during his first-ever heat, aged four.

And, it wasn’t all surf. Nathan, a smart kid, would gobble up whatever lit books Alex threw at him, from Bukowski to Tom Wolfe. He’d mow through a thousand-page volume in one day.

Still, these were, are, ballsy little kids. Alex has lost count of how many times she’s thrown a bleeding kid in the car and hot-dogged it to emergency. John’s broken “almost everything”, his neck, his back, legs, wrists, arms, ankles. Ivan earned 55 stitches in his face (rogue fin) after he paddled into a 25-footer that would later be nominated for the Billabong XXL wave of the year.

Eventually, they were squeezed out of the house by a sale, an owner moving back, whatever it was, Alex can’t remember.

So Alex and John John, now 10 but mature beyond his years, ’cause he’s seen some shit out there on the Shore and he knows what it’s like to live on nothing, were walking down the street that runs parallel to the beach and talking about the situation, saying stuff like, “Oh man, what are we going to do now?”

And, as they’re walking, there’s this little beach house, just on the corner of where they live now, and Alex, being Alex, sees this car in the driveway, looks at John, who nods, and they walk right up to the owner, their brown faces break into gazillion watt smiles, and they say, “How about it?”

And, suddenly, they’re at Pipe.

And, the rest, y’might say, is the first day of the rest of their life.

See: Greg Webber’s latest invention, floating reefs and portable sea walls!

"A $200,000 wet dream!" says inventor.

I was burying my spoon under the milk in my Cheerios mix this morning, when I saw that the shaper and wave tank designer Greg Webber had created a Facebook page for his new invention, floating reefs and portable sea walls. 

It’s worth a call, I thought.

Now, I ain’t gonna sit on his face and jerk him off about his new invention when his previous brainstorm, a wavepool to beat all others, still exists only in his imagination.

Greg, who is fifty-eight, says a pool in the US is at the engineering stage, finance covered etc.

“I have been saying that for five years or more,” he says, adding the reason it’s taking so long is it’s being built within an existing resort. “Building a wave pool on a bit of farmland in the middle of essentially nowhere is way, way quicker.”

Greg also puts the slowness of the build down to his refusal to dilute his and his existing shareholders’ stock holdings to chase quick capital.

The Gold Coast pool, he says, is back at the looking-for-land stage after the the local government re-zoned the site for a highway bypass.

Is it still a chance to be built?

“God knows, actually.”


What he’s got for me today are three pretty cool-looking designs that have the potential, on paper at least, of turning shitty waves into spinning wedges. 

First thing is a vee-wall, a fifty-metre long portable sea-wall that can be stuck anywhere on a beach to turn a corresponding length of sand from closeouts into “mechanically perfect” wedges.

These things cost around $A200,000 and Greg hopes they’ll become a gateway drug to councils and developers to buy his thirty-million dollar vee-reef.

“The vee-walls are incredible fun. They achieve a lot for the average surfer. Have ten or twenty of ‘em along a stretch of coast and he’ll be able to get away from all the other nutcases.”

The vee-reef, he says, are three hundred metres long, base to tip, and they’ll create “a phenomenal wave, a world-class wave that is like two Supa Banks, back to back. How the fuck wouldn’t you want to ride something like that? Of course, it’s the same deal as the Supa Bank, crowd-wise, unless you’re building seven or eight of them.”


Therefore, Greg recommends a mixture of vee-walls and vee-reefs for somewhere like the Gold Coast where overcrowding has made surfing there, for the most, a Mad Max-esque experience.

Greg has sat on the reef and wall idea since 2015 ‘cause he didn’t want divert attention away from his pool. Now, he figures his little 200-grand walls may have the potential to convince someone to stump up the two million bucks needed to build a single channel, linear wave pool to show the world how good it is.

Same plough sorta idea as Kelly, but with his patented reverse current to make the wave “hollow as fuck.”

Third invention? An EVA blanket that sits under water and that’ll act like a kelp bed and keep the surface of the water clean even in an unfavourable wind.

“You can ride an onshore day and there’ll be no surface chop at all,” he says.

The vee-reef, which would be anchored in deep water offshore, also comes with shark nets, which opens an interesting, and compelling I think, philosophical side to Webber. He says that by employing the old we’re-in-their-environment-deal-with-it argument every time a surfer or swimmer is hit by a shark, we’re doing society a grave disservice.

“These nets are to appease environmentalists so sharks, dolphins, whales or any other loveable sea creature doesn’t even get a graze from the reef,” he says. “I am being a bit facetious but I do count human lives above the life of a shark or any fish, really. There’s a biological instinct that makes us fearful of deep water just as children are scared of the dark. As adults, we can rationalise the dark but when you’re sitting in deep, dark water no rationalising can stop that fear. And, I think, we all need to become more comfortable with the ocean, not less. And the only way to do that is for more people to surf or to feel comfortable swimming out into the ocean. The more people who use the ocean, the more who will want to protect it.

“We make a mistake when we favour the shark at the expense of the happiness of billions of people. If a billion people are happier by being immerse in the water, you’re having a large-scale effect on the way people think about life, society and materialism. The ocean gives us that.”

Greg laughs.

He’s feeling his 200-grand vee-walls, knows they’re affordable enough to actually be built.

“Not this thirty million dollar fucking nightmare (wave pools),” he says. “These are a two-hundred thousand dollar wet dream. I’m excited.”

Negatron Rejoices: Auckland, New Zealand in final discussions to host a WSL QS 10,000!

I'm ready to move!

Be honest. Do you wish you were from New Zealand? The proud island nation that never got conquered yet savaged surrounding islands? The small archipelago of under five million souls that has a rugby team that gives Australia and America nightmares? The tiny little cluster of emerald rocks that delivered one of the best movies ever made into my childhood heart?

Oh, have you not seen Dead Alive (Braindead officially and I don’t know why it turned into Dead Alive in North America)? Let’s all watch the trailer together and then you can rent it later tonight.

Good, no? Well, not only does New Zealand have Dead Alive it is in line for a World Surf League Qualifying Series 10,000 event and let’s dig into the NZ Herald for up to the minute information.

Some of the biggest names in world surfing could be heading to New Zealand.

The Herald understands discussions are advanced for Auckland to host a World Surf League challenger event.

In documents obtained by the Herald, the event is pitched as a World Qualifying Series 10,000 — the highest ranked competition on the WSL’s qualifying circuit.

It is normally restricted to the top 100 surfers, and are often those picked by surfers looking to re-qualify for the following WSL season.

Six of the 63 events are 10,000s, with only one — South Africa — in the Southern Hemisphere.

The annual event, believed to be called the “Piha Pro” would be staged for the first time at the famous Auckland West Coast beach in March 2020.

It’s also understood that discussions have been held with arguably the greatest surfer of all time, 11-times men’s world champion, Kelly Slater.

The legendary American is believed to be keen to head Down Under to use the event as preparation for the season-opening event on Australia’s Gold Coast. Slater was in Piha earlier this year and is thought to have loved his time.

And that’s all I need to officially want to swap my U.S. passport for an all black one.

Any takers? Mine comes with automatic secondary inspection at every airport where you will answer questions about your Middle Eastern travel in a stifling cubicle and get felt up for free.

Brave new world: All female crew storms Uppers, disjointing the toxic male patriarchy!

I just witnessed the surfing version of Lysistrata and it was amazing!

2019 (ish) has been a good year for women’s surfing. The WSL standardized prize money for equality. Keala Kennelly got a good case of Athletes Mouth and then mobilized a team of minions to go after any naysayers who called her on her mistake in the name of social justice. Caroline Marks became the youngest surfer to ever qualify for the world tour. Bethany Hamilton did better air reverses in a single session BSR as a thirty-something mother of two with one arm than most of our male readership have done in their life, myself included.

Women’s surfing is amazing.

I was able to witness this level of empowerment with my own two eyes last Sunday evening at Uppers. A crowd of women, ages ranging from 20ish-40ish, descended onto the already crowded golden-hour uppers with mid-lengths and longboards and proceeded to trample the ego and bravado of about thirty puffy-chested men who, until that point, had thought they ruled the peak.

Like a majestic pride of hunting lionesses, I watched these women overtake the point. They blocked for one another, sat deeper, faded more gracefully, and did more critical maneuvers than the men on their long and alternate craft. The level of surfing by these ladies on atypical Uppers equipment in the chest high/onshore conditions far surpassed what I had seen while in the lineup from my like-gendered brethren. The crowd of men did not know how to respond or counteract the female dominance in the line-up and eventually, one-by-one men began to paddle in.

I just witnessed the surfing version of Lysistrata and it was amazing.

Even so, I see a lot of vitriol in the comment sections on many a surf Instagram page throwing shade on women’s surfing. I wonder, however, if those men throwing the proverbial shade are doing so from a metaphorical umbrella of their own. Why are you mad at women’s surfing? Because they surf better than you? You can’t back paddle a girl? They didn’t throw three thousand boring ass air-reverses in a single heat? Probably and you should probably shut up about it.

No matter how many times we call a hack a “man turn” it will always be an inherently feminine dance we do on the water. I will argue that for the perpetual intermediate male- surfings everyman, that the Women’s CT is FAR more relatable and aspirational from a day-to-day surfing perspective than the Men’s CT. I can learn far more that I can apply to my own surfing by watching Steph do a steezy wrap than by watching John do an explosive ally-oop (especially considering that despite my best efforts, at most, I have never been more than a foot above the lip intentionally and unassisted by a Grinch).

Hate on women’s surfing all you want, it still won’t discount the fact that: Steph’s Keramas 10 could have won a Men’s final, Caroline Marks at 17 will surf circles around you if given the opportunity, Alana Blanchard earns more than her baby-daddy Jack Freestone, the Women’s tour is dramatic with last-minute lead changes and friendly rivalries than the Men’s CT, and Maya Gabiera and Paige Alms have more metaphorical balls in big waves than you do actual balls in your shorts.

People say the future is female but it’s pretty evident that women’s surfing is at its historical peak right today and we should all stop and enjoy the show.

Also, as a side note, I would like to formally apologize to my wife who has been on the receiving end of far too many “you go girls” and “Yassss Queens” than was necessary since I witnessed the female storming of Uppers.

Breaking: Famous actor Liam Hemsworth “strips out of wetsuit after a surf session!”

Drop everything.

There are many wonderful parts of the surfing experience but none the world’s paparazzi loves more than the famous actor or actress de-wetsuiting in public. Yesterday it was Australian Liam Hemsworth who stars in the Hunger Games franchise and is married to Miley Cyrus and let’s not waste anymore time here. Let’s turn straight to celebrity gossip website Just Jared for up to the second information.

Liam Hemsworth puts his hot body on display while stripping out of his wetsuit following a surf session on Thursday (June 6) in Malibu, Calif.

The 29-year-old actor parked his car on the Pacific Coast Highway while riding the waves and he stripped out of his wetsuit on the road.

Mmmmmmmm. Very nice. Good form etc.

And how do you take your wetsuit off in public? Do you stand in a large Tupperware box that ensures your wetsuit stays dirt and gravel free? Do you sometimes hurt your neck wedging the batwing feature over your head? Does a hand or foot every get stuck? Do you strip halfway then drive home and get in the shower or strip all the way and get dressed into your work clothes?

Towel or poncho?

I believe I’ve shared this story before but when I first met Derek Rielly in Australia, very many years ago, he and then partner at Stab Sam McIntosh picked me up at the airport and took me surfing. It was a fine early fall day and we wore 3/2s in order to cut the slight chill. Afterward Derek stripped out of his wetsuit using no towel and stood naked in the car park (what Australians call parking lots). I thought, “That’s how they must do it here.” Over the ensuing week I realized Derek was the only one who did it that way but it did make great sense.

Why should we be ashamed of our pieces?

If you were a famous actor or actress would you give the paparazzi a worthy show or cower like an ultra-orthodox rabbi?