• Ferd Lewis @ The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

John John Florence credits his mom for all his success


John John Florence’s mother, Alexandra, was on hand to help her son celebrate becoming a two-time world champion in 2017.

John John Florence picked out a nice gift, added a thoughtful card and followed it up with a heartfelt phone call for Mother’s Day.

Problem was, his mother, Alexandra “Alex” Florence, explained, it was April, the wrong month. “She said, ‘Oh, thanks, but you’re 30 days too early,” John John recalled in a phone interview.

John John might occasionally forget his dates, but it never slips his mind that his mother was in the forefront of helping put him where he is, on top of the surfing world as defending two-time World Surf League champion.

So, he is doing it all again today for Mother’s Day from Rio de Janeiro, where he is competing in the Oi Rio Pro. “I will call her again, for sure,” he pledges.

These days, amid his eighth year on the WSL tour, he is invariably oceans away on Mother’s Day, but whatever beach he finds himself competing at, it serves as one more reminder of their bond and how the woman some have nicknamed “Momjohn” not only helped shape what he has become but who he is.

“I’d say I owe all of it (to her),” the 25-year-old John John said. “She provided a way for me to make a career out of surfing. I think she saw the beach and the ocean was such a cool place to live by, whether we became (pro) surfers or not. She’d take us to the beach every single day, she’d take us out on the board.”

Raising three sons as a young, mostly single parent on what was, at times, a shoestring, a sense of adventure and faith was no easy task, “but she did everything for my brothers and me,” John John said. “It has really been a fun journey.”

That his mother introduced him and his two younger brothers, Nathan and Ivan, to surfing when they were about the size of the trophies he now brings home is a point of pride as well as remembrance for the North Shore native. “I can’t really put an age on it, but I remember her taking us out to the Gas Chamber (surf spot) when I was very young,” John John said.

That love of the ocean stays with him to the point than even when he is on tour, John John says, “I feel like a little kid again, especially when the waves get good. I want to surf all day, which is really hard to do when you are competing (in a contest). If you surf all day, you feel it for a couple days after that.”

She moved to the North Shore from her native New Jersey as a teenager in 1986, and it was where John John, who was born in 1992, mostly grew up with Pipeline as his backyard and the surf community as neighbors and family.

And when he wasn’t there it would be mere steps from an ocean, somewhere, such as Bali. “I remember my Mom taking us traveling throughout the world when we were young,” John John said. “It was so cool to be in Indonesia for couple months at a time. She would do everything she could to make it (possible).”

Wherever they were, “we were always at home at the beach,” he said.

The lessons learned went beyond reading shore breaks. “She taught me and my brothers respect — to respect our elders, the people around us and the places we lived and the places that we’d go to,” John John said.

“Because of our travels when we were young and going to other people’s countries (and) she taught us to respect their cultures. She taught me to see people around the world the way they are different but that we are all people at the same time.”

John John Florence credits his mom for all his success


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