John John Florence after trophy that has eluded him
WSL / 2017
John John Florence at last year’s Billabong Pipe Masters.
The brass-bell-topped Rip Curl Bells Beach trophy is said to weigh more than 60 pounds, but ringing it while hoisting the iconic piece of surfing hardware is still less arduous than winning it.
“It is probably the most legendary trophy in surfing,” reigning world champion John John Florence says admiringly of one of the few prizes that has, so far, managed to elude him in the sport.
“It is the only trophy in pro surfing that actually matters,” four-time world champion Mark Richards told Tracks magazine in 2011. Silvana Lima, the first Brazilian to win it, cherished it so much she celebrated by getting a tattoo of the trophy in 2009.
Sunny Garcia (three times), Jeff Hakman, Kelly Slater (three times), Andy Irons, (twice) Shane Dorian, Carissa Moore (three times) and Megan Abubo are among the past winners of the pro tour’s longest-running event.
Florence has posed with the trophy this week in the lead-up to the event in Victoria, Australia, but, as the saying in surfing goes, “You have to win it to ring it,” and despite being a two-time world champion, he has yet to do that.
Two third-place finishes, the most recent coming last year, are his best showings to date, but oddsmakers at the online betting site Ladbroke’s Australia, have made him the favorite to win.
“I’d be super excited to ring it, but it’s a hard one to win because a lot of guys seem to have this wave dialed. I do feel at home here,” Florence told the Sydney Daily Telegraph. “It’s a challenging wave, but I love the raw ocean power and how it’s always changing — it keeps you on your toes.”
It is among the challenges he undertakes when the second contest of the World Surf League tour begins today, surf permitting, off Torquay in the Easter week event.
While much of the focus at the event will be on three-time world champion Mick Fanning’s final competitive appearance, there is also the question of Florence bouncing back from an uncharacteristic start to the new season.
Florence, who is ranked 25th on the tour, was ousted in the second round by wild-card entrant Mikey Wright, brother of Tyler Wright, in the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast in Queensland in the season opener.
“It was just one of those events — you win some, you lose some — unfortunately it happened to be in the very first event of the year,” Florence said.
It marked the earliest elimination of a reigning world champion in a season opener since 1991 and was Florence’s quickest exit since 2015.
“I have to just take what I can from it and move on,” said Florence, who takes meticulous notes of his competitions. “That way I can always look back and see what worked for me at a certain time. It is such a learning process.”
Of the upset at Quiksilver, he said, “I think it (had to do with my) wave choice. My surfing was there. So that’s something I’m trying to work on, to get better at. There’s not much to say and I’d rather not dwell on it and think about it too much.”
Florence said, “It was just one event into the mix. It wasn’t really like a wake-up call — we get two throw-aways a year, so I’ve got the rest of the year to fix (in the point standings) what happened there and move on up again.”
Winning at Bells Beach would be a ringing endorsement of that approach.