It’s Good To Be John John
With the richest endorsement deal in surfing history, thanks to Hurley, North Shore native John John Florence invested much of it in a 4K film about him and his pals surfing his favorite breaks around the world. Now, he says, it’s time to focus on contests
The quest for eternal youth always has been an obsession of humankind — from Ponce De Leon to Peter Pan, we always have clung to the fleeting days of our childhood.
Now, we all know Father Time is undefeated, but occasionally a rare talent will come along who can at least hold him at bay for a while. In Hawaii, that talent is embodied in a towheaded North Shore lifer who signed the richest endorsement deal in surfing history.
Meet John John Florence. Making a reported $5 million a year before he ever steps on a wave has allowed Florence, 23, to maintain the lifestyle of his youth, namely surfing and hanging out with his brothers and buddies, and now he has turned this endless boyhood into a feature film, View From A Blue Moon.
“It is just about me growing up in Hawaii, growing up surfing on the beach and still doing the same thing today, just in different places with my friends,” says Florence from his beachfront home on the North Shore. “We are still doing the same thing we were doing when we were little kids, but just on a bigger scale.”
The movie chronicles the past three years of his life as he has risen from an up-and-coming surfer to the face of the sport. He picked out his favorite seven locations on Earth for surf (with South Africa topping the list), and brought along his brothers Nathan and Ivan and a dozen of their friends.
“I love traveling. The plane rides get a little bit tiring, but getting to see new cultures, new foods, new landscapes and new waves is pretty amazing — especially for me being into taking photos at all these amazing, beautiful places,” says Florence.
They filmed it with 4K technology, making it the first surf movie ever shot entirely in this format. To put it in layman terms, it is ultra-high definition and crazy expensive. Early estimates put the cost of making the film between $1.5 million and $2 million, with more than 2,000 hours spent on editing alone. The result is a film that is magnificent to behold, even if you have no interest in surfing,
“The biggest thing that we do is put a lot of time and money into production value — the bigger cameras, the helicopters — trying to make a real cinematic view to it,” says Florence. “That was our plan from the beginning and I think we accomplished that.
“We have a lot of beautiful shots from everywhere around the world and it is definitely eye-catching, but for me to say it is going to appeal to people who don’t surf as much is hard because I am so far into the surfing world.”
This is the second film he has made with director Blake Kueny. The first was titled Done and showcased Florence’s skateboarding style that he has brought to the sport of surfing. This time, however, they teamed up with the award-winning studio Brain Farm, which directed the groundbreaking snowboarding film The Art of Flight.
“We wanted to do a bigger project with more gear and stuff,” says Florence, claiming that they have 250 terabytes shot for the film. “I love working behind the camera; it is one of my hobbies. I love shooting photos and stuff. Getting to work with all this big camera gear was one of my dreams to do that; learning how it all works and dealing with it was pretty amazing.
“But a lot of the work is now done in the post-work — not only is it the filming part and keeping everything focused and those guys having to be really on with that, but the post-work, getting everything colored and editing such big files is pretty crazy, and actually having the storage to keep it all. It is a whole lot of terabytes.”
While Florence did do some work behind the lens, his masterwork is on the waves with his buddy Kueny capturing the action.
“He was filming with a friend of mine and we were on a trip together, and this was the first time I had met him, and we just started talking and connected really well,” says Florence of Kueny. “A couple months later, he came and stayed with me out here, and we started filming every day and started talking about doing a movie project. I just paid for everything and he filmed and edited everything.”
Premieres were held Nov. 11 around the world, from Australia to Paris to South Africa, and the first local screening was at Sunset Beach Neighborhood Park that same day.
“It was amazing,” says Florence of having the premiere right in his neighborhood. “Really, really fun dodging rain squalls — it was funny. It was raining right before we showed it and then started raining right when it ended.”
Joining Florence that night on stage was the film’s narrator John C. Reilly, whom you might remember from his zany roles in films like Step Brothers and Talladega Nights or more serious turns in The Hours, Chicago and Gangs of New York. He was in town for the filming of the new monster film Kong: Skull Island, so it was convenient for him to stop over, and Florence could not have been more thrilled with the effort Reilly made for the movie.
“He was super cool to work with, a really big help,” says Florence. “He was really stoked to work with us on it and that was the coolest thing: that he was really amped to do it. His son is really into surfing.”
Assembling the talent and equipment for a project such as this would not be possible without funding, and while Florence underwrote the entire project, it is his sponsors that allow him the financial freedom to do so. This leads one to wonder how they, especially his main sponsor Hurley, felt about him taking off on these adventures instead of staying home and training for tour events. And do their generous contracts make his need to succeed more immediate?
“Riding for Hurley has put a little bit of pressure on me, but they really give the freedom to do what I want to do, from surfing in contests to getting to go film this movie,” says Florence, whose sponsorship from Hurley is for five years and around $18 million. “They asked me what I wanted to do, and I told them I would love to film a movie and do everything we can to make it the best movie, and they really supported that the whole way through. Now that it is done, I can really focus back in on the contests. I was really stoked that they supported me through the whole thing.”
His stated goal for 2016 is the world title, and he would seem poised to do it. Injuries in recent years have impeded his performance, but with a rejuvenated body, four years of tour experience and the movie project behind him, the sky seems to be the limit.
The film is available Dec. 1 from iTunes, Vimeo or on Blu-ray, and the trailer is available for viewing online at viewfromabluemoon.com. In the opening narration of the trailer, you truly get the sense of the wonder of the film and the extension of the seemingly endless childhood of our own John John Florence:
The ocean floor rises 5 miles to what people call the 7-mile miracle. What would it be like to be born on this island, to grow up on these shores, to witness this water every day? You are about to meet someone who did …