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John John Florence: My Life As A Professional Surfer

I can't really think back to a first memory of being on a surfboard because I've been doing it for so long - my whole life pretty much. It just kind of feels like I was born doing it. I don't really have one particular first memory. My mom has videos of her pushing me on a surfboard when I was a little tiny baby. It's crazy to look back on, but whenever somebody asks me that question I honestly just don't know a first memory or a first feeling. It's just surfing, that's all I know. It's my life pretty much. 

My mom's a surfer too, so growing up I'd watched her surf and surf with her a lot. I remember watching her go surfing on days the waves were big and I didn't want to go out and I was like, 'dammit, my mom's going out I have to go out.' But yeah, she definitely helped push my surfing along and I wouldn't be here today without her. 

I have two younger brothers, and they're both amazing surfers. It's really cool to have that, as brothers you know? They love surfing big waves, that's what they do, so it definitely pushes me when I'm surfing with them. My one brother Nathan, he goes on huge waves and I'm like, 'ahhhh, ok, I'm just going to go on the next one.' It's just so nerve-wracking though, but because my little brother did it I have to do it. 

We all grew up on the beach in Hawaii so everything that we did growing up had to do with the ocean, whether it was fishing or sailing or surfing or body surfing, everything had to do with the ocean. We actually skated a lot, too. We had a halfpipe in our backyard for a while. Everything had to do with surfing and skating and just going to school, it was a pretty simple life. 

I live right down the street from the house I grew up in now, so everything's pretty much the same as it was growing up.

That was a cool thing about filming View From A Blue Moon, we're all doing the same thing we've been doing since we were little kids, just surfing and hanging out on the beach and we're just doing it in different places and on a bigger scale. But at the same time we're still having just as much fun doing it and we love to do it and that's our life, just doing what we love to do.

Shooting the whole thing was pretty natural until you have a helicopter hovering like 10 feet right above you (laughs). The hardest thing is waves are good when they're good. It's not like, 'oh, it's good, let's wait an hour and it's still going to be good.' So the biggest thing we learned is we can't be getting this huge crew of guys together and have it take 45 minutes for everyone to get ready to film. If it's good now we've got to go now, got to be ready. By the end of the movie, we knew exactly when we wanted to shoot, how we wanted to shoot it, and so we had the least amount of people doing it and got the best stuff out of it. 

Filming the whole thing has been awesome, it's been really cool. Photography is one of my biggest hobbies so I'm really into the camera side of things, so getting to work with all this huge equipment and gear that I could only dream of and learning how to use it and how it works was pretty amazing. Everything from big stabilizing systems on helicopters to the smallest of cameras and everything in between, it was pretty cool. 

Photography was something my mom inspired.  She was pretty into it when we were young and she went to school for it and she was always shooting photos when we were on the road. Then I kind of just, when I was like 16, I started taking pictures just for fun. Then I got more and more into it and got more and more cameras. I really like to shoot film now, and I have a whole little dark room in my house I use for developing and all kinds of stuff right now. 

On tour we get to go to these really cool places so I'll always try to get out and get some photos in. The way surfing works is you don't just run three days and then you're done, sometimes you're there for the full two weeks for a tournament. So we have so many off days where we get to do so much stuff in places like France, South Africa, Tahiti, and Fiji, you go to these amazing places and to be able to just go out and take photos is just an amazing thing to do.

Being on tour is a big learning experience, especially surfing against all these guys I've looked up to since I was a little kid. And a lot of those guys are still on the tour like Kelly (Slater) and Mick (Fanning), those guys have been my heroes since I was really young - so to be surfing against them competitively now is a whole mind-twist.

When I first got on tour my whole thing was to learn how to be in a heat with Kelly Slater and go from being like, 'I'm surfing with my hero' to 'I want to beat this guy more than anything. I want to win.' When I first got on tour I was like, 'that's Kelly Slater, how do people expect me to beat him?' Then you just kind of evolve from that and learn how to refine things and make things easier for yourself. 

My whole thing in the past has really been just go surf wherever I am, just go as fast as I can and do the biggest thing I can and it works out some of the time but there's too much room for error. Since we've finished up the movie now I've spent the last three or four events going home and perfecting my whole routine and everything I want to change, which is basically everything that causes errors in my surfing. I want to correct those so going into next year I have a real smooth ride and I can put everything into the contest circuit next year. 

Everyone's pretty good friends on the tour, we all travel together all year, we're all in the same places and we all compete together and all surf together and we all have the same love for the sport, so it's pretty cool to have that relationship with that group of people. Like when we go to France, not everyone stays together, but you see everyone every day and you're surfing with everyone every day, it's almost like a school field trip around the world. 

It's so crazy that we get to go to these amazing places every year. 

My favorite place we get to go to is probably South Africa. Cape Town isn't where we have the event, we have it up the coast, like nine hours driving up the coast. But we spend a lot of time in Cape Town. It's one of the most beautiful places, such an amazing place to be. Especially for what I like to do, surfing with nobody around. Africa has so many places to go for surfing and so many photo opportunities, it's everything I kind of want in a place. If I couldn't live in Hawaii, which I'll always live there, I'd probably live in Cape Town. 

Hawaii is my home break and I surf there most of my year almost every single day, and I've been doing that my whole life. It's amazing to sleep at home for a tournament like the Pipemasters in December, to wake up, drive down the road and to go surf in a heat. You spend the whole year traveling and packing board bags - packing board bags by the way, is the biggest nightmare ever. And traveling with three of them at that, so just to not have to deal with any of that and just wake up at home and be like, 'oh, ok, the contest is on today.' You're at home, it's the most comfortable you can be and that's when you surf your best. 

Being comfortable when you're out there is huge. I was talking to someone about the experience Mick had, you know, getting bumped by that shark, and saying you can't think about those things when you're out there because you want to be as comfortable as you can in the situation you're in. Plus, if you're thinking about sharks eating you, I'd say that brings you far away from that, obviously.

What's crazy is that during a contest, that's when you feel like you're safest almost. For me it seems like that because there's water patrols and there's jet skis and there's boats and people and announcers and so much stuff going on it feels like you're safer. And for that to happen during an event with all the jet skis in the water with everything there - it was so close to being so so bad. I haven't had anything close to that, but even that just being a part of my world is pretty heavy. 

View From A Blue Moon - Official Trailer (4K Ultra HD) - John Florence by Brain Farm on YouTube

It's pretty crazy that December 1st (View From A Blue Moon release date) is almost here. For me, I'm looking at all the footage and it's like, something that I liked three months ago, I'm like, wait, do I still like that? You know, because I've seen it so many times. I get more of a thrill when I show my friends or someone and to see their reaction to it, that's what kind of excites me now rather than my excitement towards it. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish with the movie, because going on these trips and surfing with my friends and using all this awesome camera gear was really what I wanted to do. 

The movie itself is a bit different than Art Of Flight but we worked with Brain Farm who produced it, so it's going to be similar in terms of being real cinematic, but we have a narrative thing to ours. Hopefully it does have a similar impact on surfing, Art Of Flight had a huge impact on the world inside and outside of snowboarding, so hopefully this does that too. If it doesn't though, I still got to do all the things I wanted to do with it.

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