John John Florence today claimed his third consecutive Volcom Pipe Pro title at the Banzai Pipeline, eliminating Chris Ward (San Clemente, Ca., USA), Josh Kerr (AUS), and Olamana Eleogram (Maui) in the final. Perhaps the truest testament to the uncanny surfing talent of this 20-year-old is the reliability with which he can produce world class performances, given all the unpredictability of the ocean and competitive heats. With two mind-blowing days of barrels and an extra $20,000 in his pocket, Florence now departs his modest beachfront home on the shores of Pipeline in pursuit of the 2013 ASP World Title. The Volcom Pipe Pro is a 5-star rated ASP event, but does not count towards the world title rankings.
"It was definitely a special final for me, my third time in a row, I can't even believe it," said Florence. "I was just happy to make it through today really, because the waves were small but still really good. Surfing the four man heats in small, peaky conditions like that is really tough and it's quite a battle to even get a wave. I'm glad I snuck some in."
Earlier in the day, Florence survived a super tight quarter final clash with three other surfers who have tasted victory at Pipeline: Jamie O'Brien, Reef McIntosh, and Bruce Irons.
"That quarter final heat was a scary one," Florence said. So many of the guys that I really respect and have watched since I was so little. I knew I was going to have to go out there and paddle battle because it's small. But I don't want to paddle battle the guys I've been looking up to since I was little, so I kind of just went out and did what I could to sneak in a couple waves."
Looking ahead to his upcoming season on the ASP World Championship Tour that starts in Australia in a few weeks: "I just hope it's as good as last year. Last year was the best year of my life."
For Josh Kerr, living in California now means he's closer than ever to Pipeline.
"Living in California and jumping over the puddle to Hawaii to be in the tropics, surfing in boardshorts, it's a no-brainer," said Kerr, who was one of only a handful of World Championship Tour surfers like Florence who chose to contest this event. "When you look at the forecast and know you're going to get waves it's pretty exciting."
When asked of what the year holds in store for him, he's already looking at his next shot at Pipe: "The last two events I've gotten to surf Pipe with just a couple of other guys out and I wish we could just keep doing this (laughs). Getting heats in at Pipe when there's no-one else around, not having to free-surf with a hundred guys around you trying to be in position... you can take that experience into the Pipe Masters. That's priceless!"
There were moments of hope for Ward and Kerr, both of whom had been in brilliant form over the past two days of incredible surf. This was Ward's second Volcom final in as many years. Prior to the final, Eleogram had been having the break-out performance of his life. But from the beach it was clear that Florence had tapped into a sixth sense in the final that can only come with a lifetime of watching and riding the most coveted surf spot on Earth. With that, he is sure to rule here for a very long time.
Conditions were super clean, consistent, and perfectly hollow throughout the day. Two $1,000 "Electric Perfect 10" tube rides were scored, one by Kerr in the quarter finals, and one by local Marcus Hickman in the round of 32, however he still did not advance.
But for Hickman and seven other Hawaiians, they were still major winners today, guaranteeing themselves a berth in the most prestigious professional surfing event on the planet: the year-ending Pipe Masters in December. The eight highest placed Hawaii surfers in this event, who are not already on the ASP World Championship Tour, win the wildcards. They are: Jamie O'Brien; Reef McIntosh; Bruce Irons; Olamana Eleogram; Kahea Hart; Kaimana Jaquias; Hickman; and Joel Centeio.
Other worthy mentions in this event were Japan's Masatoshi Ohno, and Brazil's Jesse Mendes, who absolutely charged and committed themselves to more than a few heavy barrels.
Also awarded today was the Todd Chesser Memorial Award, given each year to the surfer in this event who charges hard yet retains the spirit of sportsmanship and aloha, like Todd did during his life. The award was presented by Todd's mom, Jeannie Chesser, to local surfer Kahea Hart. Hart looked destined for the final today, but stumbled with an unintended interference in the quarter finals. He was visibly moved to receive the award.
Volcom also awarded $58,000 to the widow and two young daughters of North Shore big wave rider and beloved member of the community, Sion Milosky, who passed away in March, 2011, surfing giant Mavericks, in California. Volcom maintains the "Live Like Sion" fund and has presented the family with a check for the past two winters.