By Daniel Ikaika Ito
Photos by Tom Carey
Volcom Pipe Pro Champion John Florence, 18, is using his giant $16,000 winnerʻs check as a shield on stage. Runner-up Jamie O’Brien, 27, is dousing him with a victory apple cider shower, aiming the stream of non-alcoholic suds directly at the champʻs eye. It’s all aloha, though.
"We had a great final and John John is like my brother from another mother, and he killed it," said JOB. "Iʻm super stoked. Heʻs my little protégé ."
Everybody is smiling as John raises his arms in victory for the second time this January.
"This means everything, especially to win two times in a row," said Florence, who won the 2011 Da Hui Backdoor Shootout earlier this month. "This is my homebreak — Pipe — and it feels so good right now."
Florence and O’Brien were both raised in houses with the most dangerous wave in the world in their backyard. Seeing them battle at their homebreak in to 6- to 8-foot barrels yesterday was gnarly.
Also in the dream-team final was San Clemente’s Chris Ward, who finished in third place and had Backdoor wired all event long. Wardo entered the Volcom Pipe Pro as an alternate and did this contest "for fun." And Pipeline specialist Aamion Goodwin put in his best result at the Banzai with fourth place. The lanky goofyfoot threaded the lefts brilliantly yesterday, and will be a formidable wildcard into the 2011 Pipe Masters. (The Volcom Pipe Pro functions as a trials for ASP Hawaii surfers to gain wildcard entries into the highly exclusive third jewel of the Vans Triple Crown.)
Yesterday was Florenceʻs first ASP Qualifying Series event victory. Besides the $16,000 first place check, he also won 1000 ASP World Rankings points, which will help John achieve his goal of World Tour qualification next year.
"My dream is to get on the World Tour and win events out here [on the North Shore]," he said.
John put in a blistering performance in the final, winning with with a two-wave total of 18.36 out of a possible 20 points. His highest scoring ride was a 9.93 out of a possible 10 points. That wave was 6-foot nugget with a ridiculously late takeoff. Florence made the drop, got completely covered by the cascading lip and exited the tube cleaner than a glob of toothpaste.
"It was pretty gnarly," he said of the winning wave. "I was kind of under it and had to paddle hard for the thing, got into it, got to the bottom, recovered after that and…super stoked!"
Itʻs way too early to make any "passing of the torch at Pipe" claims or handing over the title of "Mr. Pipeline." Not yet. JOB has five victories at Pipeline, three biographical movies and nine extra years of experience on John. Besides, O’Brien was less than 100% for the Volcom Pipe Pro final. He was sick in bed till 2 p.m. on Wednesday and was so dizzy that he had trouble walking. JOB surfed in five heats yesterday. His fellow Volcom Pipe Pro finalists surfed in only four heats on the last day.
"I know how [Jamie] is out there, and he can get a 10 on anything," said Florence about his mentor. "Heʻs still the best guy out there. It was scary to be in a heat with him."
Kalani Chapman, 28, was awarded the Todd Chesser memorial award at the Volcom Pipe Pro for his overall performance throughout the event.
Mauiʻs Ian Walsh, 27, and Mililani’s Kekoa Bacalso, 25, were both awarded $1,000 by Electric Visual for catching perfect 10-point rides.