Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, as the oldest of three children, Ivan, Nathan Florence, Florence grew up in Hale’iwa in an ocean-side house at Banzai Pipeline. He was introduced to surfing by his mother, Alexandra, who is a surfer herself. With his mother’s help, Florence first rode on a surfboard when he was six months old, and he was surfing on his own by the age of five. His brother Nathan now competes on the Big Wave World Tour after qualifying in 2018. He married Lauryn Cribb in 2019. At the age of 13, standing at 4’11” and weighing 85 pounds, Florence became the youngest surfer ever to compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which consists of three big-wave surfing contests in Hawaii. He had previously won five amateur awards, the 2003 1st NSSA Nationals Open Mini Grom, the 2005 1st NSSA Nationals Open Boy’s, the 2005 NSSA Open Boys and the Explorer Menehune Champion. He did not pass the first round, but he did score higher than Shane Dorian, a professional surfer twenty years Florence’s senior. Afterwards, Florence said he was “pretty scared,” but that he was “happy with how he did”. When Florence was still a youngster, pro surfer Kelly Slater said, “John John’s going to know the waves on North Shore like no one we’ve ever seen before.”
Since joining the World Surf League (WSL) and competing against the best surfers in the world, Florence has ranked 34th in 2011, 4th in 2012, 10th in 2013, 3rd in 2014, and 14th in 2015. Florence was the 2016 WSL Champion.
Florence won the prestigious SURFER POLL award in the 2014-2015 year. He has won the Volcom Pipe Pro an astonishing 4 times and has been declared the all-time ruler of this contest.
In 2011, Florence suffered a broken back while riding a wave at Pipeline. He has also had a broken wrist, broken leg, broken arm and ankle ligament tear.
According to surfer Mitch Crews, who witnessed Florence’s performance at the 2014 Billabong Pro Teahupoo, “He makes it look stupidly easily no matter how big or small the wave is. He is the man out there, rules the line up and makes everyone look silly. He is the man, and most of us are not.”
Florence won the Vans World Cup of Surfing in 2011 and 2013. He is the youngest contestant to have won this honor.
In October 2014, he won the Quiksilver Pro France. In February 2015, Florence won the 2015 Volcom Pipe Pro, which was his fourth win at this event in five years.
In 2013, Florence changed sponsors, joining Hurley International, after surfing for O’Neill since he was six years old. He also enjoys skateboarding, snowboarding and drawing. On January 27, 2020, John John announced he would be leaving Hurley after Hurley’s owner, Bluestar Alliance, walked back John John’s contract and offered him a $2,000,000 buyout deal.
He is now sponsored by: Stance, Futures, Nixon, Dakine, Clif Bar, Electric, Yeti and Pyzel surfboards.
In February 25, 2016, Florence won “The Eddie” Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in memory of Eddie Aikau, at Waimea Bay, the first time the event ran in seven years. He is one of the only nine surfers who have won the event. On May 2016, he won the Oi Rio Pro, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On October 25, 2016, Florence won the Meo Rip Curl Pro, in Portugal. With the elimination of surfers, Gabriel Medina at round three and Jordy Smith out at the semifinals, destiny was reached and he clinched the world title. No one has clinched the title in Portugal since Slater in 2011.
After an absolutely dominating 2016 season, John John upped his game again during the 2017 season, alongside his new coach Ross Williams. John John’s strong performances all year long made him a clear favorite to take home top honors again. In December 2017, Florence clinched his second straight world title at Pipeline, coming in second in the event to Jeremy Flores and keeping the coveted Pipeline Masters title out of his grasp for at least one more year.
Check out this great Video of John John from Winter 2020 showing why he’s considered on of the best surfers around.