John John Florence squeaking Jamie O'Brien at the Volcom Pipe Pro.
Less than eight weeks ago, Florence lost in similar fashion here to 11X world champion Kelly Slater during the Pipe Masters. Today's victory seemed to realign the trajectory of the 19-year-old, who appears at this moment in time to be destined for one of pro surfing's greatest careers of all-time.
"I wrote myself off half way through," said Florence. "Kai and Jamie both had nines. I can't believe it. Here at Pipe anything can happen.
"With 40 seconds to go I wasn't even thinking about it. I was like, yeah Jamie, congratulations, I won last year and I'm stoked for you. Then I turned around and there'ss a peak. I didn't even know if he was going. I was going to go left and backdoor the peak, then I ended up having to fade, go right, and barely got under it. It was a wild ride.
"Last year this gave me so much confidence going into the year. This is the first contest of the year and I've got confidence again. So much has gone down in the last year, qualifying for the tour, changing my whole way of surfing and trying to get into the contest thing. I'm so happy right now."
Back on the beach, O'Brien and Florence shook hands and O'Brien shook his head.
"Man, I feel like you just threw me out of the car before we got home," said O'Brien. "I'm going to come and steal that trophy from you in the middle of the night," he laughed.
O'Brien had bolted away at the start of the heat with an apparently insurmountable lead and Florence wasn't even in the picture. O'Brien's top two scoring waves were near-perfect: 9.0 and 9.43 with all three of his challengers requiring a combination of high scores to beat him. Maui's Kai Barger had posed the biggest challenge with a 9.33, but a second wave eluded him. San Clemente's Nate Yeomans was a distant third with 7.57 points total. Florence's score line wasn't much better: 9.93 total.
Then at the five minute mark, two waves in the 8-10 foot range pushed through. Florence got the first: an unbelievable backside tube at Pipe that was deep, critical, and near-impossible. He blasted out with the spray and scored a perfect 10.
Right behind him, O'Brien swung, pulled in deep and blew out in front of Florence's face for a 9.93 - further extending his lead.
One minute to go... Florence paddled over and congratulated O'Brien. Then a dark line on the horizon caught his eye. One last wave stacked up on the Pipeline reef. Fifteen seconds to go... Florence clawed his way past a frantic O'Brien who could see the writing on the wall of the wave. Florence clawed his way past Jamie, over the ledge, under the lip and into the heat-winning tube ride - a 9.93 - to claim the $20,000 first prize.
Finals results were:
1st - John John Florence (HAW) 19.93pts, $20,000
2nd - Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 19.40pts, $10,000
3rd - Kai Barger (HAW) 18.20pts, $6,500
4th - Nathan Yeomans (CA, USA) 7.57pts, $5,500