With three minutes left on the clock, the Qualifying Series (QS) surfer swiped the win from Pipeline expert Jamie O'Brien, who is more than 10 years Moniz' senior and literally lives at the infamous Oahu break (see: JOB's comfort-level, below). The two were pitted against each other in the Final, and things got heated quickly when O'Brien scored a 10-point ride -- the wave of the day, according to spectators. But for Moniz, it gave him the fuel that he needed: he scored a second 8-point ride in the dying minutes, putting him a mere 0.13 points ahead when the buzzer sounded.
With that, the young Hawaiian become only the fifth-ever winner in the history of the Volcom Pipe Pro, a 3,000-level QS event that tends to attract some high-profile aficionados of the wave. In the contest's nine-year history, only four other people topped the field: John John Florence (4x), Kelly Slater (2x), O'Brien (once), Soli Bailey (once). Now, of course, Moniz is among the iconic group.
And along with a mega-boost in confidence, the win was a huge boost in qualifying points for Moniz, who is aiming to qualify for the Championship Tour (CT) this year. His win at the Volcom event shot him to the top of the QS rankings, setting him up for a solid year. Unfortunately, he may soon relinquish that pole position, as he had to pull out of his next big event, the Burton Automotive Pro QS 6,000, this week due to an infection. That could potentially be a huge setback in terms of momentum heading into the Australian leg of the Qualifying Series. Fortunately, the 21-year-old, who is part of a legendary surfing family, is still confident that he can bounce back. (His brother Seth is still in the draw at the Burton Pro.)
We caught up with Moniz as he headed back to Hawaii for treatment.
WSL: You have had a whirlwind start to 2018. How are you feeling about everything?
Josh Moniz: Honestly, that day at the Volcom Pipe Pro was the craziest day ever for me. I was just happy to be in the event on the last day since the forecast was looking so good and then to actually end up winning out at perfect pipeline with my whole family there with me was a dream come true.
Did you all celebrate after?
Oh yeah. I definitely had a fun night with all my family and friends. It was a good time for sure.
What made the Volcom Pipe Pro so successful for you? What kind of mindset did you have going into it?
Going into the event I was more focused on putting in a good performance. The week before I had to sit on the beach and watch my little brother Seth just sending it at the Backdoor Shootout and, since I didn't get in that event, I definitely wanted to take advantage of this event since we've had such a slow winter of swell for Pipeline. So I have to thank Seth because after seeing him nearly win the Backdoor Shootout at perfect Pipe, it pushed me.
Having grown up in Hawaii, what does the Volcom Pipe Pro mean to you? Did you ever think winning was a possibility?
I always tried believing I would win this event one day but I didn't think it would come this early for me. I actually thought my little brother would get it before me so I'm pretty fired up I got this one on him. And to do it at perfect Pipeline going left was definitely another thing I was stoked on because it was real Pipeline.
In the last heat, when Jamie O'Brien got that 10…did you lose hope? What were you thinking about those last few minutes?
When Jamie got the 10 I definitely lost hope for a second. At first I thought I was gonna be out of reach to get him and then once I heard them say I only needed a high 8 my mindset completely switched. I had first priority and I just knew the waves were too good for me not to get another shot to get the score.
How did it feel getting that last score? Did you know it was make-or-break at the time?
Getting that last barrel knowing that was gonna be my last shot with first priority to pick a wave was amazing. I was definitely nervous but that's why I love competing! The feeling of needing to come back in a heat and then actually pulling it off is the best feeling in the world. I can't believe it all came together like that for me but I was really just too stoked to be in the Final with one of the GOATS of Pipeline and someone I've looked up to since I was a little kid. It was for sure the best day of my surfing life, battling Jamie at perfect Pipe.
Now, heading into Australia, has your strategy changed at all?
My strategy was just to surf heat by heat. I think with surfing since the conditions are always changing you can't stay with one strategy, you always have to adapt to what's going on. But now that I have a little speed bump I'm focusing all my energy to getting healthy again and just keeping positive through the process.
Is the Burton Automotive Pro a big event for you to miss out on? This is one of my favorite events of the year. I sort of bank on this event to try to get a result at since I've done well here in the past so it's a bitter pill to swallow that I'm missing it.
Are you aiming to qualify for the CT this year?
Yeah my main goal this year is definitely to qualify. Even though I've been forced to pull out of the first big event of the year I'm actually fine with that. For now I sort of put that goal on pause and I'm just trying to get back to a 100 percent health. It's for sure a bummer but that's how it goes. This isn't my first injury and I feel like I've learned enough about the mental process of going through injuries to not be rattled by this.