“My relationship with the boat is love, hate. Sometimes it's the most amazing thing ever. When something breaks, it's the worst."
The just-turned thirty-year-old twice world champion John John Florence has given a rare long-form interview with Outside magazine concerning his knee injury that forced him to abdicate from the back end of the tour and his subsequent three-thousand mile open-ocean crossing from Hawaii to Fiji.
The interviewer is Paddy O’Connell and since I read the transcript and didn’t listen to the audio version I figured it was a misspelling and they’d only been granted the interview on the proviso a Florence Marine X employee, preferably its Chicago born honey blond president notable for a scrotum that has to be physically bundled into his underwear, would handle the questions.
It ain’t, and it gets even more confusing when an Outside editor called Michael jumps in, asking O’Connell questions before shifting back to John John.
Still, there are moments.
On surfing with a knee injury and with precious hinge in brace:
“I almost like those situations because it turns it into like a challenge in itself. Like, okay, I have to slow down and I have to think about this a little more and I have to surf the best I can with what I have. It almost simplifies it in a way, weirdly enough… It simplifies it, it simplifies the whole mindset around competing. Because when you have, when, when everything’s good, you try to find all the negatives and you’re like, oh, I’m not ready. My board’s not ready. This doesn’t feel right. And then when something like that happens, everything goes out the window and you’re just like, I just have to surf a good wave when it comes in.”
On a three-day hike from the North Shore to Honolulu,
“We were just like, okay, we’re gonna do this. So we bought all this backpacking gear and then just picked the absolute worst weather window. Downpouring sideways rain, as miserable as it gets. Knee deep mud for three days. Can’t see where you’re walking in the dark. Just falling over every five feet and just so, so painful. But just kind of loving it, I guess. At the end of it, you’re just like, oh my gosh. That was, that was actually pretty fun.”
On competing v freesurfing,
“I do enjoy the competing and I can really kind of get my mind there and really get into it. Kind of adjust my surfing towards it. I feel like, you kind of fall back into the same, habits, routines, patterns, things like that. I absolutely love the purity of like, kind of what we call free surfing. I think there’s something to free surfing that allows a little more expression. You can kind of let loose a little more and draw a little bit different lines rather than getting sucked into the same thing. You have so much time to kind of explore and draw lines in different ways.”
Injury at Pipe,
“I broke my ankle. Then I broke my back. Then I did pretty bad grade three high ankle sprains on both ankles, kind of back to back years in a row. Then did MCL tears on both knees back to back. Then did ACL tears on both knees back to back years with surgeries, with both ACLS. So that was ACL surgery two years in a row. Not fun. Don’t do it. And then again, MCLs on my left knee twice since the ACLS. And I think that’s it so far.
And his trans-Pacific crossing on his forty-eight foot catamaran with his wife and two pals,
“My relationship with the boat is definitely a love, hate relationship. Sometimes I’m like, this is the most amazing thing ever. Look at it. We’re sailing at 15 knots and it’s beautiful and everything feels great. And then the next moment something breaks and I’m like, this is the worst. I hate this. I don’t know why we’re doing this. Why do I put myself through this stress? I’m selling the boat. When we get to Fiji, I’m selling the boat, we’re done.”