Hawaiians sweep up the debris in Round 2
Where did John John Florence go during puberty? It seems like yesterday he was 9 or 10 years old, a total Michael Jackson dreamboat, and the surf world was about ready to hand over the keys to the castle. Right then and there. The long blond hair, the two mini-me's he called brothers, the way every 4-foot Ehukai head-dip looked like Third-Reef with him on it. John John's name was ready to be etched into the 2016 World Championship trophy when he sort of faded, outshone by the likes of Kolohe Andino and Evan Geiselman and supergroms from beyond the beachpark.
Today, John John Florence finally reappeared — officially. Then he disappeared some more — then reappeared. Did that again once or twice, stalling and shacking and cutback-ing all over Backdoor in Round 2, Heat 12 of the Billabong Pipeline Masters, and voila: "Two Johns" had a heat total of 18.90. Higher than his age.
Of the 7 Hawaiians left to surf in Round 2 when competition recommenced this morning, 6 advanced. Only wildcard Sion Milosky lost his heat. The locals, paired against low seeds from the World Tour draw thus far, have been ending seasons left and right, dancing on opponents' graves just when they most desperately needed a good result. It's been a guilty pleasure, watching John John, both Irons boys, Hank Gaskell, Flynn Novak and others amputate the Dream Tour below its knees. But the Hawaiians have only just stomped on a bunch of Koopa turtles; now they have to face Bowzer.
When Round 3 begins, probably tomorrow in large and flawless barrels, the upstarts — including 11 Hawaiians — will come up hard against the ASP Top 16, of whom the lone local is Freddy Patacchia. First alternate-turned-serious threat Torrey Meister could spoil Mick Fanning's day with the thread of a few nice tubes. He's clearly capable of it. The unsponsored Gavin Gillette of Kauai could do the same to Parko, and end this world title race early. It's Hawaii versus the world, and the world has a lot to lose.
Tune into http://www.triplecrownofsurfing.com/pipelinemasters/live.php for the live webcast, and as always, surfingmagazine.com for all the rest.