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Florence conquers Pipe Pro to win second straight title

By Daniel Ikaika Ito / Special to the Star-Advertiser


It's been quite a month for the North Shore's John John Florence.

The 18-year-old Florence won the Volcom Pipe Pro yesterday at Banzai Pipeline, his second professional surf event title this month. Earlier in January, Florence captured Da Hui Backdoor Shootout.

"This means everything, especially to win two times in a row," said Florence, who won this 5-star qualifying series event in 10- to 16-foot wave face heights and highly contestable conditions. "This is my home break — Pipe — and it feels so good right now."

Florence has Pipe in his back yard. He lives in a house adjacent to Ehukai Beach Park and grew up surfing the world's most deadly wave.

This was Florence's first ASP World Qualifying Series victory. Besides the $16,000 first-place check, he also earned 1,000 QS points, which will help him achieve his goal of World Championship Tour qualification next year.

"My dream is to get on the world tour and win events out here (on the North Shore)," he said.

Florence won the Pipe Pro with a two-wave total of 18.36 out of a possible 20 points. His highest scoring ride was a 9.93 (out of 10). On that wave he dropped into a barrel late, got completely covered by the cascading lip and exited the tube cleanly.

"It was pretty gnarly," Florence explained abut the winning wave. "I was kind of under it and had to paddle hard for the thing, got into it, got to the bottom (of the wave), recovered after that and (I was) super stoked."

Florence beat his Pipeline mentor, Jamie O'Brien, 27, in the final. O'Brien had a strong runner-up finish with a two-wave total of 15.34. Although he was looking to defend his title, O'Brien was excited to see Florence win.

"We had a great final and John John is like my brother from another mother and he killed it," O'Brien said. Like Florence, O'Brien was raised with Pipeline as his back yard.

"I'm super stoked — he's my little protege," O'Brien said. "We grew up surfing out here. ... He deserves this win and has been dedicating a lot of time to Pipeline."

Finishing third was California's Chris Ward, 32, who scored a 14.46 two-wave total in the final. Kauai's Aamion Goodwin, 32, earned a two-wave total of 10.6 and fourth place.

Kalani Chapman, 28, was awarded the Todd Chesser memorial award for his overall performance throughout the event.

Maui's Ian Walsh, 27, and Mililani's Kekoa Bacalso, 25, were both awarded $1,000 by Electric Visual for catching perfect 10-point rides.

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