The call is made. The Xcel Pro is on. Sunset is a solid six to eight feet early in the morning, and forecasters are calling for the swell to rapidly increase throughout the day. At nine a.m. John John and his caddie, twelve-year-old Mason Ho, paddle out into the channel awaiting the start of the heat. The boys are strapped with some heavy artillery. Mason has an “impossible to duckdive 6’6 as backup. John John is going with a 6’0 pintail for his twenty-minute battle with the ocean. The swell is building, and conditions are tough. Seasoned pros are getting completely shut down by Sunset’s shifty, heaving peaks.
John John waits patiently on the inside bowl until his number pops up in the form of a nearly triple-overhead wave. All the spectators can see from the beach is his little white head disappear as another wave blocks the view. The crowd collectively holds their breath and waits. Not even the most masochistic of us want to see the kid eat shit on a wave like this. John John battles the wind on the takeoff (not easy to do when you weigh 75 pounds) and makes it down the face and back into view of the spectators—resulting in a resounding cheer throughout the parking lot.
John John Florence is the youngest surfer ever to enter the Xcel Pro. And we’re not talking about a fifteen-year-old man-child, either—this kid just turned ten in October. Ten. You know … ten? Playing-with-G.I.-Joes-in-the-gutter ten. Cannot-get-his-own-juice ten.At 3:30 p.m. the contest is called for the day because legendary big-wave spot Sunset Beach is closing out. Though he didn’t make it through the heat, John John has over twenty years to make some heats, eat it badly on a couple, and hopefully add his name to the list.—Justin Cote