Behind the little Big Man- Alex Flourence aka "Mom John"
Behind the little Big Man

They say behind ever good man is a strong woman. Most people know about John John Flourence, the 13 year old international surfing sensation from Hawaii, but many don't recognize his Mom as a prominent figure in her own right.

When Alex Flourence moved to the Northshore in 1987, there were no women's surfing magazines, clothing lines or monetary sponsorships. If you were a girl who surfed, you did it for the love of it. Alex considered herself somewhat of a 'free spirit" back then, living a life where she surfed all day and partied all night with the boys she knew from down the beach. "It was a real good time to come here" she says.

Now a permanent fixture on the Northshore for nearly 20 years, Alex inspires a whole new generation under the title of Mom John. As the mother goose bops down the beach with her three little geese I often wonder what amazes spectators most; that those three kids actually popped out of that iron clad bikini body, that those little kids are going to surf Pipeline? or that this girl is going to paddle out there on a longboard? Alex who doesn't seem phased by any of it, expresses that her main motivation for surfing Pipe is to be closer to her family.

Though her immediate family consists of 13 yr old John John, 11 yr old Nathan and 9 yr old Ivan, she also considers a small group of piers in the line up, a part of her ohana and even equates morning surfs before school to the likings of a "little breakfast club". Her philosophy of living life to the fullest overrides the fear of being seriously injured out there herself; "you can get hurt crossing the street or anything," says Alex. Her whole voice and demeanor changes however when I ask her if she fears for the safety of her kids. "thats my blood out there, like thats my baby, of course" exclaims Alex who admits that some nights she has extreme anxiety just thinking about it. When John John paddles out on big days she explains how she can't even sit down and has to keep her eyes fixated on the line up the whole time he surfs. At the same time she wants nothing more than to encourage and support her son to reach his goals and live his dream. For John John the drive to surf Pipe came naturally being that the family lives in a house whose backyard faces into the barrel of the break and the reality of the situation is that he has already been surfing out there for about 6 years which is half of his life. In addition Mom John consuls herself that while young her son takes on Pipeline with an adult type maturity where he waits his turn and chooses his waves wisely.

Besides being the youngest invitee in the honorary WCT Pipemasters event this year, John John has been heavily marketed in magazines internationally which has drawn a strong following of young surfers who want to be like him. Mom John cringes however at the onslaught of young hopefuls who began paddling out to big Pipe this year. Unlike most of the coaches and sponsors who are pushing these kids out there, Alex knows and understands first hand whats at stake and warns other parents who may be naive about it "that this is not a game" She points out that John John did not learn to surf at Pipe and Northshore newcombers shouldn't either. Even as an adult, Pipeline is a wave you have to build up to says Alex and with kids you have to take it slow. She also makes it clear that she is not pushing her kids, and that in the Flourence family its actually works the other way around. John John will often come in from the surf saying, "Get out there Mom, its so fun out there, what are you doing".

While this family may appear to live like life's a beach, there is a serious side to the story. Before interviewing the Flourences I went for a wave check where I saw John John get two backdoor tubes and Alex a sick Pipe pit so when I got there I expected to see them reminising about their evening surf but there was nothing of the sort. When I showed up just 10 minutes later all the boys were heavily indulged in chores and I could tell that Mom John was running a tight ship on the homefront. On the kitchen table was a calendar which was filled up with dates of travels and surf contests backing Moms statement that once the kids leave for school she becomes sorta like a secretary. "it has kinda become like a business as weird as that may sound, managing everything thats been happening to our little family" Even before the surfing sponsorships started helping the family along Alex made it her goal to take the family "traveling and surfing" because she thought it would make them well rounded. She tells about some serious super human type experiences she shared witth them in third world countries when they were practically babies. She paints a picture for me of the single Mom with not just three kids, but three board bags including their three skateboards, not to mention her huge board bag with the two longboards who are basically doing it tough on the trains and all other confrontations of a surf adventure. Though Alex is still happy to nab a paycheck for longboarding along with a steady income as a journalist, the English Lit major who is working on her masters shares the importance of education with her family who were all nodding earnstly when I ask if Mom makes them keep up with grades and homework.

Most of all Alex strives to give her family a sense of security and a loving home where they are well cared for. She feels that this type of nuturing environment will keep them from being coersed into any of the bad element that surrounds them on the Northshore or in the surf industry abroad. "Its pretty good raising kids here, I think its the best", says Alex who ponders the idea that having three gils on the Northshore would be a whole different situation, but concludes that taking them to the beach everyday and throwing them in trunks for school is a dream. You can see that the kids love it too and they certainly love Mom. As I get my things and prepare to leave the boys can't help, but to put in a couple cheers for Mom so while John John chants "My Mom charges" Ivan clarifies
"My Mom is so cool" then they all four give me a smile of Aloha and a hui hou.

by Lane Davey