John John Florence surfs during his Round 4 heat at the Oi Rio Pro on May 15, 2015 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
John John Florence, one of the top medal hopes for Team USA when surfing makes its Olympic debut next summer in Tokyo, is out for the remainder of the World Surf League Men’s Championship Tour and possibly the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Florence, who clinched back-to-back world titles in 2016 and 2017 and sits atop the 2019 season standings, announced on Instagram that he was pulling out of the next competition and is likely done for the year after rupturing his ACL, with plans to pursue surgery.
Missing the final six events of the Championship Tour season means Florence’s prospects for making the Tokyo Games, where the sport will make its Olympic debut, will take a big hit. Twenty men will take part in the Olympics, with a maximum of two per country, and the first 10 will qualify based on the 2019 Men’s Championship Tour standings. With a little more than half the season remaining, four other Team USA-eligible surfers rank in the top 12 — Kolohe Andino (2), Kelly Slater (7), Conner Coffin (11) and Seth Moniz (12). Florence’s best hope would be if his current lead of 32,160 is enough to remain the second-ranked American come December.
Should two of them not qualify based on the 2019 WSL season, Florence could still have a shot of qualifying via the 2020 ISA World Surfing Games.
“This has been a really fun year in competition and outside of the jersey. Unfortunately, in Brazil I ruptured my ACL,” Florence wrote. “I’ll be pulling out of J-Bay and likely the rest of the (Championship Tour) season. I’m opting for surgery so I can be 100% next year. I’m excited for this new adventure and everything I will learn along the way. Thanks for all of the support!”
Florence, 26, has been a fixture in elite surfing circles for years, having made his debut on the Men’s Championship Tour in 2008 when he was just 15 years old. By 2012 he was fourth in the season standings, and four years later he won the first of his two world titles.
The North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii, native fell short in his quest for a three-peat in 2018 due to another ACL injury that kept him out of the final six tournaments, and he ultimately finished 35th on the season.
However, he was back and as strong as ever in 2019, posting two wins and a third-place finish in the first four competitions this season before pulling out of last month’s Oi Rio Pro in the quarterfinals when he aggravated his ACL.
The season continues with the Corona Open J-Bay, beginning next week in South Africa.