Tokyo Rising and Surfer John John Florence In Light of a New Challenge
A Quick Film Review
Word of another knee injury for John John Florence just a couple of months before Tokyo 2020 is due to begin broke last week. Luckily, for now, the surfer "doesn't believe his injury is as serious this time and still hopes to compete in Tokyo".
As Tokyo Rising opens, Florence is in prime position to make the United States squad. With the top 10 in the 2019 World Surf League guaranteed a spot at Tokyo 2020, Florence is the top American, ahead of Kolohe Andino and legend Kelly Slater. But wiping out with a torn right knee ACL at the Oi Rio Pro event in June 2019, Florence now finds himself playing catchup. Is Olympic qualification suddenly in jeopardy?
Cut to surgery and months of rehabilitation, including quality time at home in Hawaii, farming, beekeeping, sailing...and targeting a return in just five months' time.
By the time the Billabong Pipe Masters open in December 2019, Andino - who ironically is today facing his own injury recovery challenge - has passed Florence in the standings and clinched the top U.S. spot. Florence returns to competition for the first time since June in order to ensure his point total against Slater, who would need to finish two rounds ahead of Florence in order to make it himself. Spoiler alert...Slater doesn't, and Florence's place as the second U.S. team member for Tokyo is safe.
Tokyo Rising gives a quick overview to those months in 2019 - the film clocks in at just under an hour - and it is one likely in line with similar surfing promotional video productions. Florence is charismatic enough, and I was eager to get more into who he is - his upbringing, his family, the depth of his recovery. And one also wants more of the ultimate battle for the second spot between Florence and Slater. They may have been awkward rivals, but the media absolutely was eyeing a storyline that had an accomplished athlete like Slater finally on an Olympic stage. That context could have had more perspective.
And while Tokyo Rising didn't answer my still lingering questions on just exactly how surfing competitions work - there are deeper resources for that - it did give a good primer backstory on one star athlete's desire. Let's hope that Florence can recover once more and make an impact at Tsurigasaki. And, as Tokyo Rising shows, the competition will certainly bring plenty of great action and beauty shots.