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Surfer’s day out a case of mutual admiration

Going for a spin: Florence onboard with Oracle during a training session on the Great Sound (Photograph by Sam Greenfield/OTUSA)

World Surfing League legend and freshly crowned world champion John John Florence decided to celebrate his championship win with a visit to Oracle Team USA last week.

After connecting with tactician Tom Slingsby on Instagram, he accepted an invitation to join the team on a training sail and within a few minutes he was on the wheel.

“You could tell right away he has a lot of skill,” Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle Team USA skipper, said. “He’s one of those guys who just seems to have a natural feel for anything on the water.”

For Florence it was a new but incredible experience.

“That was so sick, that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” he said.

“I’ve watched these guys doing this on video and to actually be out there on the boat it’s just crazy how much is going on. They let me drive for a little bit.

“It’s pretty scary when you’re going 35 knots and heading towards a rock! Once I took the wheel I really felt like whoa, you’re in control of this beast that’s going 35 knots.”

A big sailing fan Florence is a firm favourite with most of Oracle Team USA, who watch his surf videos obsessively, making this visit a time of mutual admiration.

“I watch sailing stuff all the time! So to come and be able to do something like this with these guys is like a dream,” Florence said.

It’s another sign that Bermuda is becoming front of mind outside of just sailing circles due to the America’s Cup.

In this case, it took a note from Slingsby, the Oracle Team USA sailing team manager and tactician/helmsman, on social media to secure the visit.

“A little over a month ago I was looking on John John’s Instagram and saw he posted a lot of sailing photos so I decided to shoot him a message inviting him to come sail on our America’s Cup boats,” Slingsby said. “He replied immediately and said he would love to and sure enough, he wins the world title of surfing in Portugal and is practically on the next plane here. Top bloke!

“He had such a good time, sailing with Oracle Team USA as well as packing in a couple more on-water adventures, that we wouldn’t be surprise to see John John Florence back on the Rock next year for the 35th America’s Cup.”