When all eyes fell on the North Shore this season, it became clear that John Florence is not a kid anymore. Photo: Van Swae

Growing up in the media spotlight can be a difficult endeavor to say the least. We've become all too familiar with the fall-from-grace stories of so many child stars, but thankfully, things are looking different for John Florence. Ushered into the sport as the next big thing well before his 10th birthday, John has made the seamless transition from prodigy to real deal. Now, as an 18-year-old halfway through a season marking his transition from boy to man, John reflects on the recent winter, his accidental run on the 'QS, and wrestling Kelly Slater.

Let's talk about this winter. Can you run us through some of your highlights so far?

Yeah, I've had a couple of good ones this winter. It's been a little slow, but there have still been a few good days here and there. Actually, a couple weeks back, Logs was about as good as I've ever seen it. Pretty much just perfect barrels, like Backdoor almost. We had two big west swells earlier in the year, but we've had a lot of north swells lately. It's been pretty fun out here, but we haven't really had any giant surf yet or anything.

Judging from some of the footage we've seen, it looks like you've been riding some pretty small boards lately.

I was riding this 5'8" for a while and it worked really good. I've been riding that board a lot in a lot of different kinds of surf and it was sort of my go-to board until I broke it on Maui a few days ago. It was shaped by Pyzel and I've been riding his boards for so long. We're pretty close so they always turn out good. Having a good relationship with your shaper where you can just talk to him one-on-one and relax can make a lot of difference. Anyway, that board you're talking about was actually supposed to be a "slab board." It gets pretty square at some of the beachbreaks in front of my house, but I was riding it in bigger waves and it worked really well.

Can you describe your style in the water?

You know, I've never really tried to make my style like this or that. I know some guys will look at video of themselves and get really critical, but that's not at all what I do.  I just kinda surf the way I surf. I guess that's my own style. I've never really looked at a video of myself and said, "my hand looks really off right there" and tried to change it or anything. I just surf.

How often would you say that you film and work with photographers?

I'd say that most of my sessions are filmed. Especially here on the North Shore. It's just the way it seems to work out these days. With things like Innersection happening, you almost need to have someone shoot with you all the time. That's why I think it's important to have a good relationship with your filmer or photographer.

I saw an interview the other day and Slater was talking about wrestling you and your brothers. What's that about?

[Laughs], yeah. That's kind of a funny story. For years, Kelly would try and wrestle me and my brothers and pretty much just rag-doll us. But this year, we've gotten a lot bigger so I think we can finally take him. I actually saw him out in the lineup a few days ago and asked him about it. He said that his shoulder was soar and came up with a few excuses. [Laughs].

Between video sections, freesurfing, and your run in the Triple Crown, it sort of feels like it's been a really big year for you with a lot of people expecting big things. How do you feel about all that?

To be honest, I don't really feel pressure throughout the year. The only time I get nervous is during the Triple Crown. I think that's because it's in my own backyard and this is the place I really want to do good. But other than that, I don't really get nervous.

You also just finished the 'QS and put in a pretty impressive performance for someone who wasn't trying to qualify.

I actually finished the year 61st and I wasn't planning to do too many contests this year at all. But then I did pretty well at the Pipe 'QS event last spring and made the semis. After that, I was signing up for a few more contests and it just kinda kept going and I had some good results. It wasn't like I had this goal to really go for it, it just sort of happened. Next year, I'm actually doing less contests. Just trying to do some of the Primes and pretty much just keep having fun.