Florence, 20, scored 17.8 points out of 20 at Sunset Beach.
He hit the waves immediately after 11-time world champion Kelly Slater returned to the beach with a heat win via a 17.04 tally.
Florence’s main competition for the $100,000 bonus Triple Crown title is Haleiwa winner Sebastien Zietz, finalist Alejo Muniz and Sunny Garcia.
While Slater isn’t in contention for the 30th Anniversary Triple Crown title, a solid crowd turned out to see him back in action. Riding a board a good 12 inches or more shorter than anyone else, he looked fast and light as he carved up the line-up, even finding a rare, clean 3-second barrel on the inside.
“It’s a tricky wave,” he said of Sunset. “I don’t surf it a lot and usually it doesn’t weigh into the World Title, so I haven’t put a lot of importance on getting to know the line up – exactly where to sit and which waves to go on during which swell directions and all that. There’s no excuse, I just haven’t put my time in at Sunset and it’s never been one of my favourite waves, but it’s a challenge for sure and there’s guys that are clear standouts out here… Sunny (Garcia), Pancho (Sullivan), John John.”
Thirty-two surfers remain and organisers expect to push ahead with the finals on Tuesday and complete the second of the three Triple Crown jewels.
H1 : Sebastien Zietz (HAW) 12.56pts ; Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.33pts ; Alex Smith (HAW) 10.90pts ; Ian Gentil (HAW) 9.
H2 : Kieren Perrow (AUS) 15.00pts ; Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.74pts ; Tom Whitaker (AUS) 13.34pts ; Jean Da Silva (BRA) 13,24pts
H3 : Jamie O’Brian (HAW) 13.67pts ; Chris Ward (USA) 10.36pts ; Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.60pts ; Bede Durbidge (AUS) 9.17pts
H4 : Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.33pts ; Glenn Hall (IRL) 13.46pts ; Gabe Kling (USA) 12.50pts ; Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.10pts
H5 : Taylor Knox (USA) 12.30pts ; Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.43pts ; Nathan Hedge (AUS) 9.84pts ; Ian Walsh (HAW) 8.90pts
H6 : Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.54pts ; Jesse Mendes (BRA) 12.63pts ; Yadin Nicol (AUS) 12.03pts ; Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 11.17pts
H7 : Damien Hobgood (USA) 15.83pts ; Jay Thompson (AUS) 11.86pts ; Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 5.64pts ; Granger Larsen (HAW) 4.77pts
H8 : Kelly Slater (USA) 17.04pts ; Lincoln Taylor (AUS) 12.33pts ; Jack Freestone (AUS) 12.20pts ; Kalani Chapman (HAW) 8.17pts
H9 : John John Florence (HAW) 17.80pts ; Billy Kemper (HAW) 15.77pts ; Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 7.67pts ; Nathan Florence (HAW) 7.37pts
H10 : Perth Standlick (AUS) 14.66pts ; Brett Simpson (USA) 12.00pts ; Miguel Pupo (BRA) 10.93pts ; Evan Valiere (HAW) 7.90pts
H11 : Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.67pts ; Nat Young (USA) 15.20pts ; Joan Duru (FRA) 9.30pts ; Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 5.74pts
H12 : CJ Hobgood (USA) 12.83pts ; Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA) 9.93pts ; Tiago Pires (PRT) 5.43pts ; Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 4.17pts
H13 : Marc Lacomare (FRA) 12.70pts ; Adam Melling (AUS) 10.83pts ; Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.00pts ; Garrett Parkes (AUS) 6.16pts
H14 : Alejo Muniz (BRA) 15.80pts ; Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 14.87pts ; Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 7.50pts ; Dusty Payne (HAW) 6.80pts
H15 : Kai Otton (AUS) 11.86pts ; Nathan Yeomans (USA) 11.60pts ; Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 11.40pts ; Heitor Alves (BRA) 4.26pts
H16 : Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.76pts ; Sunny Garcia (HAW) 13.66pts ; Koa Smith (HAW) 13.26pts ; Nathaniel Curran (USA) 8.20pts