Welcome to the future.
And you have have certainly heard of the French astrologer Nostradamus who penned the 1555 best-seller Les Prophéties which predicted, among other things, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 some 400-odd years early. His forward-thinking augury is, to this day, mind-blowing and many wonder if we will ever see his like again.
Well, these things too are hard to predict but it appears as if a modern Nostradamus is walking amongst us today, toiling as a surf journalist who also studies the behavior of sharks.
In 2012, he traveled to Oahu’s North Shore and there began a work of narrative non-fiction that would be published the next year under the title Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell (buy here). It was a relative obscure offering, though did earn a coveted PEN Award nomination but our interest lies in an entire chapter dedicated to two, then, very young surfers: Kolohe Andino and John John Florence.
Chapter 14: You Said That You Could Let It Go. Or, a Contest
But excellence at a young age in surfing guarantees nothing, except possibly a rehab-worthy drug problem. Being a prodigy is as much a strike against as it is a way forward. And Kolohe and John John are both prodigies.
Both have been in the spotlight since they were children and both are dealing with the shoulder-stooping pressure of being prodigies on the brink of adulthood. The speculation about what they may become is now meaningless. They will either become great, today in the biggest opening day of the Pipeline Masters ever, literally not figuratively, or sink into the annals of surfing’s folk history.
The surf industry hedges by betting on both Kolohe and John John. It speaks highly of both. But, truthfully, the surf industry doesn’t know shit. By and large, its last good idea was turning cocaine profits into boardshorts. By and large, it has become entirely reactionary, conservative, and petty. There are still some brands that maintain a fine image and make fine products that are both stylistically hip and true to the space.
But it is hard when everyone has gone public and boards and chairmen from equity groups have the final say. So most industry brands pull advertisements from magazines for controversial pieces and the most stupidly tame pieces alike. They complain, bitterly, about virtually everything just like a senile old grandpa. An article about sunglasses ran recently on Surfing Magazine’s website, for instance, and a small company from Encinitas, California, was not included.
A hundred and ten people looked at the story but the company felt so totally shattered that they sent nasty emails to Tony Perez about how unfair everything is and that they buy ads and expect to be included and blah blah blah. Blah. That is the surf industry. And even betting on both Kolohe and John John may bring only more hurt old feelings.
Kolohe Andino, down the beach, is the future of surfing and John John Florence, up the beach, is also the future of surfing but they are two different futures. They are a fork in the road. Kolohe is blue chip, corpo. He is million-dollar Super Bowl television commercials. He is kids in Nebraska buying Nike Surf trunks and wearing them to their local swimming pool.
And John John is core. Super core. He is the first explorers who tackled towering waves at Waimea, Sunset, and Pipeline. He is dingy kids fearlessly paddling out at waves that will crush them because that is what it means to be a surfer.
Kolohe and John John. The California prodigy with the Hawaiian name and the Hawaiian prodigy named after the most eastern-seaboard-establishment celebrity ever.
The chapter goes on and on, taking unexpected twists and turns but comes back around to Kolohe and John John, predicting their greatness.
Yesterday the two were announced as the official provisional men’s U.S. Olympic Surf Team.
The question now is, what else does this surf journalist with a passing interest in cocaine (buy here) know?
More as the story develops.