Two-time world champion John John Florence achieved his lifelong dream of winning the Billabong Pipe Masters at his home break at the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore today.
Florence, 28, defeated Brazil’s Gabriel Medina, 26, a two-time world champion and former Pipe Masters winner, to mark the first victory in the event by a Hawaii surfer since Andy Irons’ 2000 win. This year’s contest, presented by Hydroflask, was dedicated to the memory of the late Kauai surfer.
And while the waves weren’t enormous at Banzai Pipeline today, it was still an epic, historic day for women surfers, who competed in a world championship event at the surf break for the first time.
Australian Tyler Wright, 26, a two-time world title winner, defeated Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, reigning world champion and four-time world title winner, in the final of the Maui Women’s Pro by Roxy, which was relocated to Banzai Pipeline from its usual site at Maui’s Honolua Bay due to the Dec. 8 fatal shark attack on a recreational surfer before the start of the event’s second day of competition.
“It was devastating what happened in Maui,” Wright told WSL commentator Megan Abubo on the beach after her win. “Thank you to WSL for giving us the opportunity to surf out at Pipe; I definitely don’t take this for granted, (this) is truly special.”
Asked about the future of women’s surfing on the North Shore, Wright added, “the more women who are out (at Pipe), the better.”
As Florence left the water, he was greeted and wrapped in the Hawaiian flag, and his eyes shone with weariness and joy.
“It was fun, it feels great. I loved that final with Gabriel; we’re good friends,” he told the Star-Advertiser by phone, adding, “I’m a little tired.”
The North Shore native, who was raised with his two surfer brothers, Nathan and Ivan, in a beachfront home at Pipeline, thanked his wife, his family, his team, the WSL and the community “and everybody who supported me through the last few years.”
“It’s been a bumpy ride,” said Florence, who was knocked off the 2019 championship tour by an ACL tear, returning to surf in the Pipe Masters last December to win a berth, alongside Moore, Floridian Caroline Marks and Californian Kolohe Andino, on the U.S. team for the first-ever Olympic surf event at the Tokyo summer games, which were postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The next stop for the men’s and women’s championship tours will be at Oahu’s Sunset Beach in January.