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Wednesday, February 1, 2012
John John doubles down at Pipe Pro

In the matter of a month John Florence has gone from teen phenom to outright Pipe legend. His win today at the Volcom Pipe Pro was as clutch as they come.
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It was over. With five minutes remaining in the final John Florence's run at the Volcom Pipe Pro was done, Jamie O'Brien's victory a foregone conclusion.

Then somewhere, somehow, the switch flipped. And in one of those rare moments in surfing where a career is defined or destiny fulfilled, Florence conjured up a 10-point ride -- plenty enough to impress, but it left him still needing another near-perfect score.

Time flew off the clock, sets marched in. Things happen fast in the pit at Pipeline. Then, in just about as high-pressure situation a situation you're apt to see in surfing, Florence responded. He swung deep into a Backdoor ledge, faded the bottom turn, and barely snuck under the lip. Shortly thereafter he emerged from the spit with a double fist pump. It was now Florence's victory that was a foregone conclusion.

"That wave came in the last 20 seconds, I can't even believe it. I just went, 'It's not over yet,'" beamed Florence on the beach afterwards. "I was going to go left, but then it set up at Backdoor so well. I thought I was going to get lipped and barely hung on."

John John Florence in the midst of one of the greatest comebacks at Pipe in recent memory.

Ultimately the final was decided by 0.27 of a point, and both Florence and O'Brien were within a point of posting perfect 20-point heat scores. How's that for action? But it was Florence that walked away the $20,000 first place check.

"You think you're going to win and you don't ... it hurts," said O'Brien, who lives not more than 500 yards down the beach from Florence and has spent many an hour in the water out at Pipe playing master-and-student games with him.

But a month after winning the Vans Triple Crown title, consider Florence's newly minted legend status legit. In a week of thundering surf on the North Shore, winning the Pipe Pro for a second consecutive year is proof positive that he's the premiere Pipe surfer for the next generation ... even if O'Brien and Bruce Irons are still at the height of their power. No matter how you break it down, the kid's spent a lifetime surfing out there and has earned every bit of the success he's experiencing. He's going to be dangerous in 2012.

Jamie O'Brien was close, but as he put it, "I feel like I got thrown out of a car."

And a final note about the Pipe Pro, the waves yesterday and today have been about as good as Pipeline gets. You know it's something special when Bruce Irons will vouch for that. As far as wave quality goes, it sets the bar pretty high for the rest of the year, but lets hope we see more of the same. Up next on the ASP calendar is the first Prime of the year in Brazil, then the Australian leg gets underway. 2012 is off and running, but this show is going to be hard to beat.