Last year John John Florence had already been crowned world champion by time he returned back to Hawaii for the Triple Crown. However, this year the North Shore-native has a little more on the line as he looks to defend his title at Pipe Masters with two formidable foes hot on his heels.
"I think it add more excitement if anything," said John John Florence about the World Title race. "It brings that race closer and just to be in this position heading into Pipe is super exciting."
It's an exciting time for Florence, and for surf fans. This year's title race includes four surfers who are all still technically in the running. Gabriel Medina, Jordy Smith, and Julian Wilson can all still mathematically spoil JJF's shot at defending his crown, with both Medina and Smith applying heavy pressure heading into Pipe.
But, still at the front of the pack, Florence says he feels confident heading into Pipe Masters in part because it's in his own backyard.
"Yea I feel really good about it," Florence added. "I've grown up surfing here so. So it's- I have that slight advantage."
None of the top three contenders have ever won Pipe. But, both Florence and his closest competition for the World Title ,Medina, have each finished second. But, if JJF is able to match that result and make it into the final at Bonzai Pipeline, he'll defend his crown in waves that served as his childhood playground.
"It would mean so much. I mean, that's what I've always dreamed of," said Florence. "Winning the World Title last year was my dream. But, I think winning it here at home is what I've always pictured if I ever won one because I've grown up watching Kelly and Andy Irons and those guys win World Titles out here at Pipe Line... So that's- if that happens I'd be so stoked."
Competition at the Pipe Invitational opened Friday, that featured 32 of Hawaii's most talented pipe surfers. Florence, Medina, Smith and the rest of the heavy hitters won't hit hit water until Saturday conditions permitting.
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