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18 May, 2012

John Florence is the Next Big Thing and Why

John Florence, the 19 year old from Hawaii just won his maiden WCT victory in Brazil, defeating my other favourite surfer Joel Parkinson in the final.

I have been predicting massive success for this kid for a long time. It’s no secret of course that he’s a phenomenal surfer. I mean who makes the cover of Surfer Magazine at six years old? John John (as he used to be called as a grom) rips the bag out of the small stuff as good as anybody. What I like most is the way he pulls some of the most cutting edge airs and lightning-speed turns while he looks half asleep. Plus he’s fearless and dominating in big, heavy tubes. I mean who beats Jamie OBrien twice in a row at huge Pipe and then says they were just lucky. (He’s also humble.) With the next two events going down at Cloudbreak and Teahupo‘o (two heavy reef breaks tailor made for his style of surfing) it’s feasible that John could finish the South Pacific leg of the tour atop the ratings heading. That call is premature however one thing is certain – he will definitely be hoisting plenty more of those first place cheques.

I love the other finalist’s (Parko) surfing for the exact same reason. Incredible surfing made to look so so easy. These two guys are my favorite surfers (along with Kelly and Tom Curren) and it’s great to see Parko back in the number 1 ranking.

So why do I admire these surfers so much?

The answer?


They have that most rare ability to perform the most difficult of skills while making it look easy. Landing the hugest of airs looking half asleep. Massive hacks with seemingly little effort. It’s style and with a capital S.

So what is style?

For me it’s economy of motion. This means that the board is moving a lot but the body very little. Other descriptors might include elegance, casualness, time, finesse, relaxed, never rushed, seemingly effortless, lack of muscle tension, subtlety, less is more .. etc…etc…

Where does style come from?

Well we already each have our own individual style that is characteristically you. For some it’s more eye pleasing than others. However I think that you can quite easily and rapidly work on improving in this area. Given that style has been virtually THE leading component of admiration since … well since forever (think Phil Edwards, Gerry Lopez, Tom Curren, Joel Tudor etc… ) then you owe it to yourself to become as stylish a surfer as possible.

I like style improvements too because you don’t need to be a ripper to be stylish. I mean if you are an older cruiser, and your never going to land an alley oop, then why not focus on looking cool instead.

Simple ways you can improve your style while riding include:

-relax your wrists (tension here indicates tension up into much of your upper body)
-drop the shoulders
-a bit of subtle hand or head jive
-arms bent approx. at 90 degrees (only if you’re a flailer and your arms are flapping out wide)
-stance – shoulder width, with back knee dropped a touch, not too poo-manish
-smile (how funny is it that most riders faces are so scrunched up with concentration)

These can be very simple adjustments to make. Even beginners doing learn to surf can work on these lessons. However to really nail it and become a true stylemaster, you’ll recall that economy of motion means ‘less is more’. ‘Less’ means doing the right body movement patterns in the correct sequence at the right time. ‘More’ means the board is leveraged beautifully. This is the basis of correct surfing technique:-

– Minimal body movement
– Maximum surfboard reaction

For example – a very common thing is for a surfer doing a re-entry to twist their head and trailing arm in the direction of their turn, while their leading arm lies dormant, instead of rotating as well. We call this blocking. Effectively that becomes a force of +1 -1 = 0. Message to board = 0.

Whereas if that same surfer rotated the head, leading arm and then trailing arm in the correct sequence, then the force effect becomes +1 +1 +1 = 3. Message to board is a multiplier of 3. Resulting in maximum movement, radical surfing, with minimal body movement. Aaahhhh … the essence of style!

This is why I am so fanatical about technical analysis. It’s not because I want you to become a robot. But you never will surf like these legends mentioned above unless you understand and utilize this principle of less is more. Whether you aspire to Phil Edwards take on it or John John’s, it’s worthy of your attention.


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