Men’s #1: John John Florence

A feature from the 2013 Hot 100

John John Florence. Photo: Russo

"There were a few bad years there before it got better for me--like they say, it's got to get bad before it gets good. I actually broke my back in 2011 and that sidelined me for a while when I was rehabbing it. I didn't want to make a big deal about it, so I didn't really talk about the injury a lot. It actually happened out at Pipe. I pulled into one and the foam ball pushed me toward the beach and then the wave literally broke on my back. The lip flared out as it broke and really compressed and tweaked my back. I came in knowing something was wrong, and then went to the hospital where they took X-rays and said that I had cracked one of my vertebrae. I was on pain pills when the doctor came in and told me that I had broken my back and I was tripping because I didn't think it hurt that bad. It was pretty heavy to hear. From there I spent some time rehabbing and trying to get my confidence back."

"I think that living in Hawaii has kept me pretty humble. People will put you in your place if you're acting out of line and respect is a big part of living here. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could get all cocky without someone setting me straight. I'm not anything special. Just some people think that I surf well. It's weird to be compared to someone else or for someone to say that I'm better than that person and I'm going to do this or do that. I mean, that's just someone's opinion, right? That's all that is. An opinion. Who's to say that anyone's actually a better surfer than someone else? I'm just surfing. I'm just being me. AI is AI. Kelly is Kelly. Curren is Curren. I'm just trying to be me. When it comes to giving advice to younger people, I always struggle because I feel like I'm still having a hard enough time trying to figure it out myself, you know? I'm not gonna tell someone not to dream big or not to have ambitions or goals because I think that's important. But at the same time, I don't think it's good for young kids to really build their whole view of what surfing is by how well they do in a contest or how well they surf. You should surf because you love it, not because you want a sponsor or a good ranking in the NSSA. If that stuff happens, then great, it happened. But don't surf because that's what you want. You can't force stuff like that. If you love surfing, that should be enough."

"How do I view success in the future? That's a hard one. I feel pretty successful today, because I'm able to make a living out of surfing. But at a professional or competitive level, I think you have to always be redefining your view of success to move forward. If Slater had said that success meant winning four world titles, and he would have stopped there, he wouldn't have gone on to win seven more titles. You can't put an actual value on success. I think you have to always be reevaluating what it means and always pushing yourself. You want to set goals, but when you reach them, you have to make new ones."