What if we told you that a number of years ago, a fresh-faced John John Florence was punting airs and tucking into meaty slabs in the wilds of...Scotland.
JJF is a secretive kind of guy. And even before hitting the big league, everyone's favourite surfer kept things on the low down. As a grom, he punted over to the UK for an O'Neill comp, probably at the age of 16-years-old.
“Already his aerial surfing was way ahead of anything I had seen first-hand,” said filmer Lewis Arnold, who used the footage as part of a new movie called Flux, where he showed a few groms JJF's approach to that wave in order to give them a little inspiration. “It's a heavy wave and his approach was incredible,” he adds. Skip to 4mins 30secs for those are-you-kidding-me moments.
We checked in with Lewis to talk about Flux as it has been released to the public for the first time. Here's what he had to say.
Tell us about Flux, what’s the premise here?
FLUX is a lo-fi experimental short film about the different strands of surfing and how they coexist.
The film contrasts my outlook as an older surfer and , the often harsh realities of surfing in Europe, with the stoke of some of the best UK groms.
For a while, I’ve photographed the groms on training camps ran by Joel Gray at Surf Solutions and was struck by their optimism towards surfing and how they didn’t have the negativity and baggage that older surfers like myself can carry.
My formative surfing years were the eighties so it was a quite different surfing landscape in many ways.
That said, I feel some of the negativity is justified and the film hints at themes around corporate influence an environmental responsibilities in surfing and also surfing as a competitive sport.
FLUX is an abstract representation of surfing using a deliberate ambiguity to hopefully reveal layers of understanding and shift the viewer's perspective.
This non-representational approach to a surf film has divided opinion but FLUX connects with my body of work in theme, methodology and aesthetic and was awarded Winner Best British Film at the London Surf/Film Festival 2019.
And this all ends with JJF in Scotland? How did that come about?
We were up in Scotland when an O’Neill Comp was on and the weather and surf had been hard work. We were seeking shelter at one of the slabs and JJF turned up with some friends. They asked to borrow a leash and so I gave them mime if it was okay to film.
I think he was 16 but already his aerial surfing was way ahead of anything I had seen first-hand. It's a heavy wave and his approach was incredible.
How come you’ve sat on the footage for so long?
Some of my footage from that session was used in Uncommon Ideals by Chris McClean but this was before Instagram etc and I had no projects happening where it would fit so it just sat there.
And what made you want to put JJF into the edit?
Maybe its not obvious with the layered VO in the edit, that only surfer the groms talk about as an influence and hero is John John.
As I had the footage of JJF as a grom himself, surfing at one of the breaks the groms mention as somewhere they hope to surf, it felt relevant and just fit with the look and theme of the project. Remember when it was shot, nobody at that session knew the truly great surfer JJF would go on to become.
Without that section, FLUX would be pretty bleak but its inclusion hopefully hints at what can be achieved and flips the message of the film to something positive.