HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The biggest moment for Hawaii surfing in over a decade took place today in Portugal, as Oahu's John John Florence claimed the world title and became the World Surf League 2016 World Champion for the first time in his illustrious career. The victory came at the penultimate event on the World Surf League Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour stop No. 10/11, the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, after Conner Coffin (USA) took down Jordy Smith (South Africa) in the second Semifinal and handed Florence the world title. Florence went on to win the event against Coffin after taking to the air for a 9.5 and 7.0 in a loose and fun Final heat.
"It's a huge moment, this is only the fourth Hawaiian ever to win a world title so this is massive," said Ross Williams, WSL color commentator and former Championship Tour surfer from Hawaii. "It means a lot for the state of Hawaii, it means a lot for John John. This has been his dream since he's been basically eight years old surfing little Ehukai waves. Now he's made it to the big stage, what a huge moment for John."
After Florence bested Kolohe Andino (USA) in the first Semifinal for a slot in the Final, he stood in the competitors area surrounded by friends and watched his destiny unfold.
"I honestly can't even believe it right now, I don't think it's really sunk in," said Florence after the second Semifinal ended. "I know my mom and them are back home watching right now and I really wish they were here… I am so stoked, I mean I worked my whole life towards this, I have so many people to thank for this, my mom, my whole family, all my friends back home, everyone here on tour with us this whole year, oh my gosh I'm so stoked right now."
An incredible day for John John and an even prouder moment for Hawaii, the 24-year-old makes history as the fourth Hawaiian surfer to ever claim a world title, and the first to win it for his state since the late Andy Irons in 2004. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the professional world tour, which makes John John Florence the 40th World Champion of surfing.
"My whole life has gone towards this, everything I've done, just this year especially learning so much about competitive surfing and just really focusing in on it and having so much help and support," continued Florence. "The support has been amazing, I couldn't have done it without everyone back at home and everyone here on the road with us. So many people, so much so much support."