John John Wins Back-to-Back WSL Title at Billabong Pipe Masters
John John Florence (HAW) clinched the 2017 World Surf League Title at the Billabong Pipe Masters, making him the first male surfer since Andy Irons (HAW) to successfully defend a maiden world title (Irons was ’02, ’03).
Mark Richards (AUS), Tom Carroll (AUS) and Tom Curren (USA) are the only other male surfers to have achieved the feat.
“It’s been my dream to win here at home,” Florence told WSL. “There’s been a nervous build up to this event and I just don’t know what to say, I’m shaking. So many people have been here for me this year and it’s been awesome. It’s been an awesome year and I’m just so stoked.”
Florence’s season started out with strong results during the Australian leg, including his first event win of the year in Margaret River. After two 13th place finishes in Rio and Fiji, Florence steadily improved his results through the remainder of the season. With a 5th place in both Jeffreys Bay and Tahiti, followed by Semifinal berths at Trestles and in France, Florence reclaimed the Jeep Leader Jersey from closest rival Jordy Smith (ZAF).
Challengers Smith, Owen Wright (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Adriano de Souza (BRA) all suffered early eliminations in Portugal, falling out of reach of the title.
Going into the Billabong Pipe Masters, only four surfers remained in contention to clinch the title, but contenders Gabriel Medina (BRA), Julian Wilson (AUS), and Smith weren’t able to deliver the results needed to block Florence at his home break.
Florence’s victory was sealed after Medina was eliminated in the Quarterfinals at the hands of eventual event winner Jeremy Flores (FRA).
“I think I learned a lot about myself this year competing with all the pressure, especially coming from last year’s win,” Florence continued. “It’s been a hard year and I’ve had some ups and some downs, but mostly I had a lot of fun. I think that’s what came out of last year and I really, really wanted to enjoy every moment of it.”
Universally-regarded as one of the best all-around surfers, Florence has diligently worked at improving since qualifying for the elite WSL Championship Tour (CT) in 2011. A seven-year competitor on the CT, Florence claimed his maiden title in 2016 with an early-season clinch in Portugal, having previously finished in the Top 5 twice before (4th in 2012 and 3rd in 2014).
“It’s been scary being that close in points to someone like Gabriel (Medina) who’s such a great surfer out here and a fierce competitor,” said Florence. “His comeback in Europe was amazing, he won two events in a row and then was right there in the title race. Surfing with him out here has been nerve racking but it would have been cool if we had a final for the title.
“I couldn’t have done it without my guys traveling with me and I have to thank my mom for all this because she took me and my brothers traveling when we were young and really just got us to love the ocean and I think that’s what we’re all in this for – the love of surfing – so thank you, mom, I wouldn’t be here without you.”
Florence 2017 WSL CT Results:
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast: 3rd
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro: Winner
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: 3rd
Oi Rio Pro: 13th
OK Fiji Pro: 13th
Corona Open J-Bay: 5th
Billabong Pro Tahiti: 5th
Hurley Pro at Trestles: 3rd
Quiksilver Pro France: 3rd
Meo Rip Curl Pro Portugal: 5th
Billabong Pipe Masters: 2nd
Florence Career WSL CT Finishes:
2016: WSL CHAMPION
2017: WSL CHAMPION
Jeremy Flores (FRA) claimed his second Billabong Pipe Masters victory after defeating Florence in the Final. Flores, the 2010 Pipe Master, took out Kanoa Igarashi (USA) and Gabriel Medina (BRA) en route to the Final against the new WSL Champion.
Flores rounds out the year at 15th place on the Jeep Leaderboard to solidify his place on the 2018 CT thanks to the victory, his best result of the season and his first CT win since Tahiti in 2015.
“Winning the Pipe Masters against John John Florence like that in perfect Backdoor in the last seconds, that’s the best way to win,” Flores told WSL. “I couldn’t think of any better way to win this Pipe Master. I’m so, so stoked and there’s a lot of emotions. Congrats to everyone. Congrats to John John (Florence) and Gabriel (Medina), these guys are next level. My goal was to win this event but this is crazy, I’m so happy.
“To be honest, I don’t like to be that guy that’s deciding titles – it should be a showdown between John and Gabriel, these guys work so hard,” Flores continued. “That’s why honestly when I beat Gabriel I felt bad. It’s been an emotional day and yesterday was stressful. I had to make one heat to re qualify pretty much and I made it with a 4 and a 2. I just wanted to have fun today and I did and the waves showed up. Through all the ups and downs I have so much good support and this is for everyone so thank you. I won this title for France and it doesn’t happen very much!”
After a slow start to the Final, it was Florence that found the first score of significance with just over twenty minutes remaining with a long barrel that was rewarded with an 8.93.
Flores answered with a 7.90 but a relaxed looking world champ was right behind him with a clean tube ride of his own for 7.23 and a solid heat lead. Flores was left searching for an 8.27 in order to claim his second Pipe Masters, but with limited opportunities the clock ran down.
In the final seconds Flores found an opportunity and the crowd waited anxiously for the result. The score came in and Flores stole the win from Florence, turning the heat with a thrilling buzzer-beater barrel.
“I almost got a Pipe Masters but I’m super stoked for Jeremy Flores,” Florence said. “That last wave was insane and this whole event has been amazing.”
Florence previously dispatched world title contender Julian Wilson (AUS) (who finished out the year in third place) in the Quarterfinals and then, following news of his title clinching, the new WSL Champion went on to face Ian Gouveia (BRA) in the Semifinals before taking on Flores in the Final.
World title contender Gabriel Medina (BRA) finished the year in second place on the Jeep Leaderboard with a 5th place finish at the Billabong Pipe Masters after being defeated by Flores in the Quarterfinals.
“2017 was a great year,” Medina said to WSL. “I had an injury at the beginning of the year which wasn’t great but I tried to do my best. I had some bad results but I also had some great results. I’m so tired right now because I put everything in the water. I just tried to never give up because there’s always a chance no matter what’s going on. That was a long year and it’s hard to deal with all the ups and downs so it was stressful. That’s all part of the game, you just have to do your best. My goal here was the final but I’m stoked everyone got to watch and I’m coming back for next year.”
11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) was dispatched by Medina in Round 4 Heat 3. The Brazilian went all out in the battle against Slater with two excellent-range scores, an 8.90 and a near-perfect 9.07. Slater charged into numerous tubes but was not able to escape a majority of his attempts. Stuck needing two new scores to overcome the 2014 WSL Champion, Slater was not able to answer and is eliminated in Equal 9th place.
WSL Jeep Leaderboard Top 5 (after Billabong Pipe Masters):
1 – John John Florence (HAW) 59,600 pts
2 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 53,700 pts
3 – Julian Wilson (AUS) 48,650 pts
4 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 47,600 pts
5 – Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 40,700 pts
Billabong Pipe Masters Final Results:
1 – Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.23
2 – John John Florence (HAW) 16.16
Billabong Pipe Masters Semifinal Results:
SF 1: John John Florence (HAW) 12.56 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 12.33
SF 2: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.20 def. Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 11.33
Billabong Pipe Masters Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Ian Gouveia (BRA) 9.70 vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.40
QF 2: John John Florence (HAW) 17.60 vs. Julian Wilson (AUS) 2.64
QF 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.76 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 6.04
QF 4: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 9.57 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 8.67
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.23 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 9.43
Heat 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.50 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 7.90
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.97 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 9.16
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 6.34 def. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 0.90
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Ian Gouveia (BRA) 11.73, Conner Coffin (USA) 1.23, Julian Wilson (AUS) 0.43
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 13.17, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 12.87, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 4.53
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.37, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.10, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 7.57
Heat 4: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 12.44, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 4.60, Kelly Slater (USA) 4.44