The North Shore Rat Pack

By Chris Latronic
Interview by Tyler Rock

We all have our crew. It could be just your best friend or a multitude of them. People come together and form the amazing relationships we thrive in today. We go to school, work, eat, surf, party, cruise with these special friends and make memories last forever… Or at least within your crew you do.

Growing up on the North Shore, the Neverland Boys (John, Nathan and Ivan Florence, Kiron Jabour, Koa Rothman and Eli Olson) were connected to each other through their love for the ocean and surfing. The crew has shared similar struggles and triumphs as they grew into the shrines of professional surfing they now occupy. The stickers and pocket books may have changed tremendously over the years, but some things will never change and friends will always be friends. To get some 1st person insight, we tracked down Alexandra Florence to help us paint a picture of their humble origins. Alex was more than gracious to take us back to the beginning.

AF: Kiron, Koa, Eli, Ivan, Nate, John… That’s the crew that’s at my house all the time… for years! Their crew is pretty tight, they basically live here (points to her house). I put up a list, like ‘bring your own towel’ and such. I ain’t coin extra laundry.

We have a good time here. I make them laugh, they make me laugh. I chase them with brooms. Recently they put a chicken leg in my shoe… a real chicken leg. Not the kind you buy in the store. I don’t know where the rest of it went.

Freesurf: Tell us about each of the boys in the Crew.

John John Backdoor. Photo: Tony Heff
John John Backdoor. Photo: Tony Heff

AF: Kiron is very dependable, he’s helped me out a lot. When the boys were very little, he was extremely helpful, even now. When we get in a big family argument, Kiron is usually the one who saves the day. He’s like a big brother.

Eli is a really good kid. Humble, honest, and very helpful. I call him my Asian son. Eli and I also have a love/hate relationship. I get mad at him and he gets all salty about it, but then we become friends again. He does stuff like leave his wet shorts in the middle of the floor, no matter how many times I tell him not to.

Koa Rothman is sweet, a really good kid. Definitely one of my favorites. I can’t get him to rake the yard, but he’s got my back. When I’m fighting with the boys, he stands up and says ‘Don’t talk to your mom that way!’ and stuff like that.

Ivan is a really underground guy, but he charges and has really sick style. Although Ivan comes off quiet, just get to know him, he’s hilarious. We also skateboard the most together.

Nathan is super smart and loves to read. He reads more than me, he reads big books everyday. He’s probably reading right now. Literally, he’s one of those kids who just walks around reading. I’m actually pretty proud of that. I also workout with him a lot, he’s like my trainer sort of.

John is an adult in so many ways, you could sit down with him and have a cup of coffee. He talks about things he saw online, his excitement for film and cameras, it’s nice. We have fun skating together. He definitely has his immature side but most of the time we can just hang out and it not be such a mom/son thing, and just cruise.

Usually when they are all together they are watching and reviewing footage, watching silly things on YouTube. Or they’re out here (points to the deck and front yard). They sometimes have some heated chess matches on the picnic table. Or they’re up in the tree fort checking the waves and girls. Or they’re eating. That’s a big thing, they eat a ton.

Now that you got the desensitized gist of the story from a motherly perspective, here’s a RAW version told from the crew themselves. Interview conducted by Tyler Rock (Freesurf).

JJF: John John Florence
NF: Nathan Florence
KJ: Kiron Jabour
IV: Ivan Florence
KR: Koa Rothman
EO: Eli Olson

Freesurf: How did you guys first start hanging out?
NF: We’re basically all different ages.
KR: Elementary
EO: I guess just from being born and raised out here. Surfing.
JJF: School. Me and Eli always had classes together.
(John John comes from behind Nathan and puts the cat on his head, laughs)
NF: Get him out of here!
KR: He smells like straight oil.

Freesurf: Who here is the same age?
JJF: Me and Eli
EO: Yeah, me and John were in the same grade from elementary through Kahuku (high school)

Freesurf: Kiron you’re the oldest?
KJ: Yeah

Freesurf: Who’s the youngest?
ALL: Ivan

Freesurf: I notice when you guys surf, you tend to go, 1.2.3 on sets. It’s like you’re taking turns.
EO: Really?

Freesurf: Well, I don’t know… is that how you guys work it?
EO: We probably just…
JJF: We kind of…
NF: We sit in a group, in the same spot so it’s like…
KR: We just take turns.
JJF: Yeah
EO: Ya, definitely take turns. And once one of us gets a good one, the next one up is like, aaagh I want a good one.
NF: Yeah.
KR: We usually know who’s next in line.
NF: Yeah, whoever caught the last wave is last.
JJF: Koa seems to think he’s next in line more.
KR: YOU are…you should have seen what he did yesterday. He caught a sick one, paddled right back out and took mine.
JJF: Yeah, but he snaked me last year, then he came back out and said, my wave was lame and then it was on “Wave of the Winter”.
KR: Last year!
JJF: We’re even now.
(In the background, Ivan grabs Kiron’s burrito out of his hand and starts grinding.)
KJ: You want a bite? Just have it, just f-ing finish it.

Freesurf: So is there a pecking order for you guys when you’re all out there?
KJ: (raises hand) It’s always my turn.
(All laugh).
I’m number 1.
EO: No. We definitely try to take turns.
KR: It’s whoever gets out there first, gets the first wave.
KJ: Koa doesn’t think that though, even if he’s last.
KR: You’re the worst one! Why’s everyone trying to pick on me?

Kiron Jabour. Photo: Chris Latronic
Kiron Jabour. Photo: Chris Latronic

Freesurf: So who’s the dirtiest, messiest of you guys?
(All laugh and point to Nathan).
KR: This kid’s probably the gnarliest kid around.
NF: Not even!
EO: Nasty Nate was his nickname forever.
NF: Not the dirtiest. I’m the cleanest one here.
JJF: Just watch him eat.
(All laugh). Nathan throws part of his burrito at John John.

Freesurf: Who’s the most on it? Who’s up the earliest and checking the waves, how do you guys work it in the morning?
KR: I’m definitely up the earliest.
(All laugh).
JJF: No he’s not!
EO: He’s the latest. (pointing at Koa).
JJF: He’s the last one. We’re always running out like, wait. Did someone call Koa?
EO: Maybe John or Kiron is the most on it.
(All agree).

Freesurf: Do you guys give each other a heads up in the morning?
EO: Oh we have a group text between us that’s just constantly blowing up.
JJF: Yeah.
EO: I’ll go surf or something, and there’ll be a hundred texts from these guys. It’s sick though, there’s some funny stuff in there.

Freesurf: What is the gnarliest thing you’ve all seen together?
KR: That shark. That shark that ate the turtle.
JJF: The shark that ate the turtle was pretty nuts.
KR: Not everyone was there though.
JJF: It was me, Koa and Nathan.
EO: Maybe Jaws? That was a group trip.
KR: No the one day we got caught inside at Himis (Himalayas).
JJF:That was the gnarliest!
(All agree).
KJ: Everyone was there.

Freesurf: What happened?
NF: We got caught inside on like…
EO: ..Biggest wave I’ve ever seen.
NF: To this day.
KR: John made it out the back of course.
EO: It happened to be breaking right where you are. (points 9 meters away) Ivan’s board hit me in the head.
JJF: I don’t know how I made it out the back.
NF: Ivan and Eli were behind me and I ditched my board, dove under, looked back and they were gone, boards tombstoning. You could hear boards breaking underwater.
JJF: I was a little bit outside these guys and the lip was coming down. Somehow I got under the lip and made it through the back. But it was a HUGE wave, I don’t know how I made it through.
KR: That was the biggest wave I’ve ever seen. And it was breaking in front of us.
KJ: Nathan’s board was going over me inside the barrel.
JJF: All these guys went in and it was just me and Kalani Chapman.
EO: My leash broke.
KR: The sound under the water of all the boards and leashes breaking…
NF: Ya you hear the snaps of leashes breaking like tzing tzing.
KR: It was sooo gnarly.
EO: Me and Ivan were the last two to get picked up by the ski.

Freesurf: You guys ever have a moment in those situations where you were stoked you had your boy there with you?
EO: Ya. that time for sure. When I surfaced, I was right next to Ivan. I think Ivan was like 15 at the time, and it was as big as Himis can handle. I was terrified but I saw him and was like ‘we’re all good just breathe.’ My leash got taken out too, so we’re both just swimming in the middle of the ocean. But it was cool that we had each other, because if I was by myself, or if he was by himself it could have been a whole different story. So ya, having your boys with you definitely helps out a lot.
(NF nods).
NF: I think me and Koa had a moment once in Puerto (Escondido).
KR: That was insanely scary.
NF: I could not make it to the surface and just my hand was out on the top of the water like waving (makes a waving motion). Koa said he just saw my hand like aaaahhh! (waving desperately).
KR: I barely made it over the next set. I look and Nate was just in the foam like this (waving). I paddled over to him and he barely popped up right before the next wave. That was scary.
JJF to Kiron: How about our one at Waimea?
JJF: Me and Kiron had one, I was like 12 and Kiron was 14. We were paddling out to the Bay and the swell started picking up super fast. And this was before we looked at the swells or anything, so we were just kinda like, ‘Oh! Waimea looks fun, lets go out.’ And then a 9 wave closeout set came through, and Kiron was five feet in front of me and we were just barely scratching over the tops of these things. It was the scariest moment…
KJ: …just barely making it over.
JJF: I was so scared just going over, thinking about the next wave really breaking.
NF: They looked like ants going over the thing. Tiny.
KJ: Where is that photo?
JJF: I don’t know, gotta find that thing.

Freesurf: What would you say was the most perfect session you had together?
NF: That April swell?
EO: Nah, some of these guys weren’t here.
JJF: How about that one morning session where you and me paddled out early and then we were all out last winter.
NF: When we paddled out and there was no one out.
JJF: Yeah, just our crew.
NF: Did they come out after?
JJF: Ya, ‘cause Eli and Koa tried to roust me for body climbing that one wave.
NF: Oh yeah! haha.
(All laugh).

Freesurf: Who has the best claim out of all you guys?
JJF: Eli.
KR: Eli.
EO: Kiron
JJF: No way!
EO: John!
(All crack up).
KJ: Everyone said Eli and he’s trying to point at everyone else.
EO: Whatever!
JJF: I’m pretty sure we have a clip of Eli doing a double hand claim in the barrel, and coming out hands behind his back like… (gestures and makes a funny face).
EO: Okay, I guess I’m the claim guy. I like to have fun when I surf, these guys are emotionless robots.
JJF: What about Nate’s claim behind Duane Desoto?
(All laugh).
EO: That was way gnarlier than mine, but it was a double barrel.
NF: I couldn’t not. It was like my hands went up without me even knowing.

Freesurf: So is it okay to claim?
KR: No.
NF: No.
JJF: Oh, it’s so wrong, cause everyone gets so rousted for it.
KR: It makes a really sick wave look really gay.
EO: I feel like we roust each other really hard for it, but it’s like you’re having fun.
KJ: You’re going to get rousted for it either way, even if it was the nutsest wave ever.
EO: Ya.
JJF: If you claim it, everyone just forgets about your wave.
KR: Yeah, you’ll forget about the whole wave and just remember his claim.
NF: Yeah, exactly.
JJF: Like his Duane Desoto wave he got.
KR: But that thing was f*cked up.
KJ: But you went and flexed, you went like raaawwwrrrr! (Arms raised wildly).
(All laugh).

Freesurf: Do you guys have a bit of a pack mentality when you surf, or is it more like every man for himself?
KR: We stick together.
NF: No we stick together.
EO: Definitely.
KR: If we go somewhere, we always paddle out at the same time.
NF: We sit in the same spot. Always in the same zone.

Freesurf: Why?
EO: We’re always watching over each other. Like, Nate packed a nuts closeout this morning and me and John were both almost paddling into Aint’s (next to Backdoor) because his board was just tombstoning. We definitely keep an eye out for each other.
NF: Ya yesterday, your wave you went over on… (points to Koa) I was like whooah..(motions a frantic paddle).
EO: But then, sure enough I hit my head on the reef this morning and these guys had no idea.
KJ: You hit your head on the reef?
EO: Ya, slammed my head.
KJ: Oh snap.

Freesurf: Who’s the gnarliest charger?
JJF: (In a deeper voice) Koa Himalaya Teahupoo Rothman!
KJ: Koa definitely got the gnarliest wave ever.
KR: What? I think Ivan’s the nutsest.
NF: Ivan’s the youngest and he’s gone on the biggest waves almost.
JJF: Wait, (tapping Eli) what did that thing say on STAB?
EO: Tamed.. Tamed the Chopes..
JJF: “Koa, Tame the Chopes Biggest Wave Ever Rothman”. (laughs and continues..) “Koa, Chope Tamer Biggest Wave Ever Rothman”!
KR: Shutup!
NF: I think we’re basically all on the same level. If one of us gets a big one, we’re all going to want the same big one. We’re all going to go.
JJF: Yeah, there hasn’t really been a wave where…
EO: …I feel like we’d all go on it.

Freesurf: Who has the best or worst nickname?
JJF: Worst nickname? Nathan is Nasty Nate.
KJ: Koa has the worst nickname but we can’t talk about it.
NF: Oh yaaa…
KR: What? I don’t even know about it.
(John John mutters something)
KR: Oh no…

Freesurf: Who’s the biggest rouster?
EO: John.
JJF: No. That’s not true.
EO: Ya, he starts everything, then if you say something he’ll just be like, ‘woah, what are you trying to roust for?’
NF: Ya.
JJF: No. Eli tells me he’s going to beat me up and stuff.
(All laugh).
EO: After you roust me!
JJF: I have a video of him telling me he’s going to beat me up. Haha.
KJ: Where is that? (to John).
JJF: On my computer right now (to Kiron). “Don’t do it, i’ll beat you up,” (immitating Eli) (Kiron laughing).

Ivan Florence, the fun side of fearless. Photo: Tony Heff
Ivan Florence, the fun side of fearless. Photo: Tony Heff

Freesurf: Who’s the most active on social media and all that?
KR: John John.
NF: John for sure.
JJF: No!
KR: He’s always on his phone.
JJF: I’m never on my phone.
EO: John’s always on his phone.
JJF: Eli’s always on his phone! We were at my house the other day and we didn’t have wifi, and Eli’s like, ‘come on, we got to go to the other house so we can have internet’.
EO: No way.
JJF: What?! Were you not freaking out because there was no internet?
EO: I wasn’t… because I didn’t have reception.
KR: Eli’s pretty bad…Pandora.
EO: That’s music.

Freesurf: Who’s the biggest surf junky, like, will just surf all day?
EO: John.
NF: John will do like, 8 hour sessions.
KR: Kiron is too.
NF: Kiron will surf like 6 times a day.
JJF: I think me and Kiron are. I don’t know.
KJ: We’ve kind of always been like that…since we were little.
JJF: I feel like I psych too hard sometimes, on sh*tty waves.
EO: Ya you do!
NF: They both do.

Freesurf: Who’s the least?
JJF: Eli’s always psyched but he never believes me.
KR: Kiron’s pretty lazy.
KJ: Yeah..
KR: He’s like a slug.
KJ: For sure…
(All laugh).
KJ: That’s unreal.
JJF: That’s unreal.
KR: That’s unreal.
(All laugh).
KR: No, I’m just joking.

Freesurf: Who’s the most in-shape?
JJF: Nathan. He trains.
NF: No Eli is.
JJF: Ya, actually Eli’s kinda the most in-shape one.

Freesurf: Who’s the least in-shape?
EO: John.
(All laugh and agree).

Freesurf: Who works out the least?
JJF: Me. I don’t work out at all. I just surf a lot.

Freesurf: Who has the most boards?
KR: Who do you think has the most boards?
EO: John John. Some of us pay for our boards.
KR: Ya… Any board sponsors out there want to hook it up?
EO: Ya… We’ll get barreled if you give us boards.
KR: I’ll cartwheel.


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