John John Florence, The Introverted Messiah, Struggles w/ the Vicious Circle of Sports Stardom | The highest paid + least accessible surfer
The fact that John John Florence is basically the best and highest paid surfer in the world, yet shuns the spotlight, hides his phone in favor of a film camera, and doesn’t give a shit about social media or growing his “brand” or “following” is exactly what makes him so damn legit. This article by Sean Doherty looks at the world around John that just won’t stop talking about him, which JJF just turns his back and tends to his bees and his sailboat. Wish there was more professional athletes out there that just let their skills do the talking.
John is an introvert, a supremely self-aware and entirely comfortable introvert. He’s not a lighthouse keeper, he just likes to keep unnecessary human interaction to a minimum, which is hard work when you’re the best surfer in the world and a figure of universal adoration. It kind of comes with the territory. Depending on how you define it, a third of the world’s population are introverts, people who think more than they talk, but there’s an important distinction to make here between introversion and shyness. Shyness implies some kind of social anxiety. John’s fine in the public eye, and in person he’s one of the most easy going cats you’ll ever meet. He’s totally capable of dealing with it all… it’s just that, like all introverts, he’d rather not have to. He does his best work alone, usually in the ocean.
John’s not the first person to struggle with the vicious circle of sports stardom. Do what you love, get really good at it, then have the whole world intrude on that relationship. No, John’s not the first surfer to deal with it, but he might be the first to do it entirely on his terms. John makes few concessions to stardom, and there’s a high premium on his privacy and space. The result is that he’s arguably more underground today than he was an eight-year-old.
It’s been fascinating to watch it play out over the past few years. To start, John moved out of the family home at Pipeline and bought a beachfront property down the quiet end of the strip at Log Cabins. When that gets too much, he simply sails off in his boat or jumps a plane somewhere quiet. His circle of trust is small. He’s got his family, a core group of surf friends on the North Shore and a core group he works with on his own projects. He’s managed tightly, and it’s almost impossible to get a formal interview with him. His personal social media accounts gather dust.