At 22 John John Florence is already one of the most exciting surfers in the world, with a style that marries mind-boggling speed with fearlessness in big waves and a seemingly preternatural ease in the water. He also has some serious credentials: Florence paddled the fearsome Waimea for the first time at age 12, has already won two World Championship Tour events, and scored rare perfect tens in competition at Teahupoo and Pipeline.
Now Florence has his first feature film, A View From a Blue Moon. Almost three years in the making, the movie stitches together footage of Florence pushing the boundaries of his sport. We caught up with Florence to find out more about the new film and learn more about the freckle-faced kid who's become one of surfing's biggest stars.
What makes this project unique?
We just made it the way we wanted to make it, you know? It's everything that I've always wanted to do. We got to work with this big camera gear, helicopters. We wanted it to be as cinematic as we could do it. That's why we chose to work with Brain Farm, just from their past movies that they came out with in snowboarding [Ed: The Art of Flight] and stuff. We've been working on this for almost three years now. It's just crazy. Now that we're finally here, it's pretty trippy.
What sections of the movie are you especially proud of?
The Brazil part came out really cool. That was our last section we filmed. We all learned so much throughout the whole movie. So that being the last section, everything went so smooth. We left Brazil and it didn't even seem like too hard work or anything. And we came out with so much good footage.
What was the most difficult part of the filming?
There was never a point where it was like, "this isn't coming together right." It was more, "oh my god, this is overkill right now." There were some times, when we had a helicopter and a few people on the beach and a boat and a jet ski that I thought, "Oh, I don't want to be this guy, doing stuff like this."
What was your favorite time surfing for the film?
My favorite part was Hawaii. It was just being at home and you know, I'm home for four months in Hawaii in the winter time, so we just filmed that whole time. There's no pressure. We wake up in the morning and we do what we do everyday. We just go surf and we film and it was just really fun.
Turning to your career: What do you think is its highlight so far?
I think winning the world tour events is pretty special. They're just so hard to win. Winning at my home break at Pipe is the best thing ever. I get to wake up in my own bed and go surf pretty much right in front of my house. It's like what you do every day, but you're surfing a contest.
What's it like to surf against Kelly Slater?
I've learned to surf against him, I guess. When I started the Tour, I didn't think I could beat him. Now I just go to a heat and I'm going to surf and I'm going to try to win.
Is there any surfers you look up to?
Kelly Slater is one. He's still surfing as great as ten years ago and he's still trying to win world titles, like he was 15 or 20 years ago. It's cool to see someone like Kelly, he's so healthy and he's still surfing just as good as he was, if not better. And to be able to upkeep that is a lot of work. That's cool.
You first competed in the triple crown at age 13, which is pretty unusual. What's it like to progress so quickly in the sport?
I've been having a lot of fun with my whole career so far. Starting from when I was really young, doing the Triple Crown and stuff, until now, it's been more and more exciting. I look forward to the next year coming. I'm still learning every single session and everything I do. It's pretty cool. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now and where I'm going.
What do you want to be known for, if you had to choose — innovating new moves or having good style?
I just want to be able surf everything — from big waves to small waves.
You regularly compete at Pipeline and Teahupoo — among the more dangerous waves out there. How much do you think about risk?
There's a risk to everything you do. You can take off on a one-foot wave and get hurt, you can take off on a ten-foot wave and get hurt. You just don't think about it at all. You just go for it. When you kick out of a really big wave, it feels pretty damn good. You want to do it again. Even if you fall on a really big wave, you get that adrenaline and it's like, you just want to go on a bigger wave.
Is that what keeps you coming back?
It's seriously unexplainable. You kick out of the wave and there's so much emotion going on around it. There's so much power in that wave, from the take-off to the end of the wave, with all the boats in the channel. It's pretty amazing. It's like a little arena out there.
What do you most want to accomplish before your career is over?
I want to win a world title for sure. When I'm a little bit older, I'll have a lot of time to free-surf in my life. So I would love to win a world title.
What do you think your best quality as a person is?
I don't know. It's a hard one to judge yourself. [long silence] I'm pretty mellow. Yea, I'm mellow.
Is that what Taylor Swift saw in you when you two were dating?
[laughing] That was great. That was fake, but it was pretty funny. It started as a joke. And it just kind of really blew up and I was just not expecting that. That got pretty crazy.