At dawn this morning the roosters on the North Shore crowed brilliantly in unison for their son who had conquered the world, two oceans away. The cool trade winds rushed to tell the palm trees of this news and shook them awake, the dancing fronds echoing like wild cheers from above. En route to work or carpooling to school on Kam Hwy, passing cars honked twice at each other (one honk for each John) to relay the message. And the church bells in the cathedral tower overlooking Waimea Bay rang out ecstatically: Ding-dong… John-John…ding-dong…John-John…
Unless I was just hearing things.
And perhaps I was. Because when I rushed to the nearest 7-11 for a keepsake copy of The Star Advertiser newspaper (what Page 1 word-play would they contrive?!)… John’s triumph was nowhere to be seen. Nor, in the Sports Section. And, no, there’s no excuse, John clinched the title around 9pm in Hawaii, ample time in the newspaper biz for a headline the following morning.
Shit just catches on here later, so maybe I’ll have my copy tomorrow…or the next.
Nevertheless, Hawaii has a (mens) world champ again. And one very different than our brazen, shot-gun-pumping hero that passed. In essence, one that surfing has never known.
Because, sure, Andy was out-surfing the entire planet during his reign, but his wins were won on attitude. Magnetic, brash, fuck-it-I’m-on-one attitude.
And beyond Hawaii, in the years that Fanning won his, it seemed like he had No.1 tattooed beneath his eyelids so he’d never have his peepers off the prize. Or Gabs, how he stormed his year so relentlessly, with such competitive ferocity, how when he got on his rolls, it was nearly unstoppable. And last year with Adriano, how he took it right from under everyone because clearly nobody wanted it as badly as him, talent-be-damned.
And John John’s? Beyond also currently out-surfing anyone on the planet, what is the identity — the palpable personality — of his 2016 campaign? Coyness? Demure? Our Bashful King? It shouldn’t surprise me that his home state’s paper didn’t even notice he’d won. The kid’s always been too casual, so effortlessly debonair to comprehend the complex nuances of his lines and approach.
Indeed his approach seemed the opposite of Hawaii’s last reigning champ. And that’s perfectly alright.
But will we ever know him? Like, emotionally-speaking? Andy and the rest of the champs let it all hang out on their runs. Their passion and the road to the top consumes them in that special, selfish, unyielding way that it does all great artists and upper-echelon athletes. They burn hot and bright and collide with their prize like a meteor bursting through the atmosphere.
Every year, this one included, the commentators go on about how “the guy that wants it the most wins it.” And when you truly want it — we, the viewers, can see it, right? And did no one want it as much as John John? Could’ve fooled me. I mean he said he wanted it when Rosy asked him (quite pensively as not to look cocky on camera), but we haven’t seen John John crying over the results. Haven’t seen him flick off judges or yell at the heavens on a bad call. Haven’t seen him bash a board over the rocks…haven’t seen him lose it once, not even for a brief fully-warranted moment of weakness.
We seen him lose, but the kid’s always been too cool to lose his cool. Yeah…bear with me on that one.
But THAT is what makes him singular. What makes this entire year unique. This year, subtle, understated, atomic nonchalance beat out aggression for the win. Bashful beat fervor.
No, I am not hearing things. The island has caught on and a new swell has arrived, bigger than forecasted, to greet him. The children at Sunset Elementary School are singing hymns in the green field across from his homebreak. The church bells ring out gleefully for their shy, gifted son. Ding-dong… John-John…ding-dong…John-John… –Beau Flemister