The list of Volcom Pipe Pro winners is a short one with only the most recognizable names from top to bottom. During its tenure as a Qualifying Series event, this contest has been highlighted by the sport’s elite and the prestige of a Pipe Pro title far outweighs even the significance of the QS points.
With previous winners Kelly Slater, Jamie O’Brien and John John Florence as the only trail blazers to this point, it was Australia’s Soli Bailey taking home the 2017 Volcom Pipe Pro title on a long and memorable finals day at Pipeline. Bailey could be on track to make a run at a Championship Tour spot as he takes an early QS rankings lead.
But he certainly didn’t have an easy road to the crown as he had to face former Pipe Master Bruce Irons, former world champion Adriano de Souza and proven upstart Griffin Colapinto in the final. Yet the challenge didn’t prevent Bailey from cruising to a convincing win, as his 13.26 total in the final put him well ahead of his competitors, who couldn’t quite find their comfort levels throughout the tricky heat.
Bailey also took out Florence in the semifinals and Koa Smith and Hank Gaskell in the quarterfinals, so he had his work cut out for him and proved to be the most consistent performer throughout the event.
Irons was the fan favorite heading into the final, but he never got any momentum going as the ocean sent mostly messes in his direction. He did, however, delight the crowd earlier in the event with one of the contest’s most exciting and memorable heats. Irons found cover for a 9.67 score on his first wave of round three in a matchup that also featured Slater, Seth Moniz and Imai Devault. With both Bruce and Kelly in the same lineup, it was somewhat of a shock to see Moniz exit with the win on a 17.17 total, which sent Slater packing much earlier than most would have expected.
Adding his name to the list of previous winners certainly would have been a deserving coup for Irons, but Bailey made it a one-man show rather quickly and decisively.
After Irons, Koa Smith was Kauai’s next highest finisher with his equal 13th result. Smith scorched a solo ride in round three to pick up a 9.00 and the heat win. It’s a solid start to 2017 for Smith, who sits 27th on the QS leaderboard. He’s coming off his best season as a pro, finishing 62nd in the world in 2016.
Kaimana Jaquias was eliminated in round three, after Dylan Goodale, Danny Fuller, Chris Foster and Tyler Newton all lost in round two.
Newton had gotten into the main draw via the Last Chance Qualifiers heat, where he had topped a legendary lineup of Tom Dosland, Mark Healey, Derek Ho, Kawai Lindo, Barron Mamiya, Reef McIntosh and Dave Wassel.
The season now shifts down under to Australia, which will host the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro (Feb. 20-26), followed swiftly by the Australian Open of Surfing (Feb. 27-March 5). Each is a QS 6,000 contest and should define the pace setters for the 2017 rankings leaders.
With Bailey’s surprise win, an unpredictable 2017 seems likely. The only thing for certain is that Hawaii’s winter pro season has come and gone. The winds will shift the tour to the Southern Hemisphere until we meet again.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.