John John Florence, a 16-year-old home-schooled junior out of Haleiwa,
Hawaii, emulates surfing legends like nine-time world champ Kelly Slater.
But Florence is best compared to Shaun White, more for what he represents
than what sport he plays. White has revolutionized action sports with his refusal
to be typecast as a snowboarder. Sure, the Carlsbad Seaside Academy
(Carlsbad, Calif.) graduate has won nine X Games gold medals in snowboarding
(four in superpipe and five in slopestyle) and an Olympic gold
medal in the halfpipe. But once the snow melts, White trades in his snowboard
for a skateboard. And the Flying Tomato doesn't leave his winning
ways on the mountain -- he took gold in skate vert at the 2007 X Games.
Meanwhile, ever since earning a wild card to become the youngest competitor
in the world's premier big-wave series, the Vans Triple Crown of
Surfing, at age 13, Florence has been considered the future of surfing. Like
White, however, he hasn't stopped pursuing other interests.
16th at the 2009 Ultimate Boarder Championships, an event that pits
the world's most versatile action athletes against each other in surfing,
skateboarding and snowboarding.
"That's the future," Florence says. "We're
kind of doing everything now."
Florence took second in surfing and 13th in
skateboarding, but a 45th-place showing on the slopes cost
him a shot at a top-five finish in a field full of seasoned pros.
What more could you expect from a Hawaii native who has to
fly across three time zones to Cali just to get a peek at snow?
Rewind: A hit from our past next picks
Hit: Ryan Scheckler to Tony Hawk
It's almost unfair to compare anyone to Hawk, a
skating icon who has won a record 10 gold
medals in skateboarding at the X Games. But
somehow Sheckler has lived up to the hype so
far. Sheckler, the star of MTV's "Life of Ryan," has
already won a pair of X Game golds. And at age
19, he's just getting started.
next IN line: More action sports comparisons
The next Rob Dyrdek: Nyjah Huston
A pro since '91, Dyrdek is huge thanks to his skating and star turn on MTV's "Rob & Big." Huston, who competed in the X Games at age 11, has the talent and charisma to cross over.
The next Hannah Teter: Ellery Hollingsworth
Teter won gold in the halfpipe at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Hollingsworth, the first female to land a backside 900 on a quarterpipe in competition, could medal in 2010.
The next Layne Beachley: Courtney Conlogue
If seven-time world champ Beachley is the Michael Jordan of women's surfing, Conlogue is the LeBron. She placed second at the 2009 ISA World Junior Championships.