John John Florence on Wednesday earned his first ASP World Championship Tour victory, defeating Joel Parkinson in hollow three- to four-foot surf to win the Billabong Rio Pro at Barra de Tijuca, Brazil.
While Parkinson moved into the World Tour ratings lead, WCT rookie Florence vaulted into a tie at No. 5 and may be regarded as the most promising surfer from Hawaii since the late Andy Irons, who won three consecutive world titles from 2002-04.
"This is the best feeling in the world," Florence said. "I can’t even believe this right now. I’m in shock. I was just sticking to my game plan and not thinking about the other guys. I’m so happy right now."
Florence is tied with Australia's Taj Burrow in the standings. In the top three are Australia's Parkinson, Mick Fanning and Josh Kerr. They're followed by Brazil's Adriano de Souza, Australia's Burrow and Florence.
Kelly Slater, who has won 11 world titles, is ranked eighth. Slater, 40, did not participate at the Brazil contest, which was the third of 10 World Tour competitions.
-- Image showing a victorious John John Florence is courtesy of ASP/Kirstin