HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - John John Florence and Kelly Slater have become two of the biggest rivals in the surfing world, so it was only fitting that the sports final berth into the Olympic games would come down to two of surfing’s biggest stars.
It would be North Shore’s John John Florence doing just enough to become the second Hawaii surfer to qualify for the inaugural USA surf team, as the sport makes its Olympic debut at the Tokyo games in 2020.
Florence finished just ahead of eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater after the 47-year old was defeated in a semi-final heat by top-ranked Italo Ferreira of Brazil at Hawaii’s famed Banzai Pipeline in the semi-final of the PipeMasters.
Ferreira would go on to win the contest en route to his first World Title, but his win over Slater in the heat solidified Florence’s Olympic berth.
“In surfing for the Olympics to have Hawaii represented is really important,” said Florence. “I’m so stoked Riss (Carissa Moore) is going to be there and I’m stoked I’m going to be able to be there representing Hawaii I think it’s going to be really fun and hopefully the Hawaiians take it home.”
It was also a historic day for another Hawaiian surfer as Kuliouou native Seth Moniz was named the WSL Rookie of the Year.