Since 2010 the Volcom Pipe Pro has earned the distinction of being one of the most defining contests on the WSL calendar. Over the last nine years the contest has only been won by five surfers; Kelly Slater holds two of those titles, while John John Florence has won the contest a remarkable four times. Not only does one have to beat the best to be the best, but the surf always seems to pump on the North Shore this time of year as the world's most famous stretch of reef is hammered by large northwest swells. Plenty of historical moments have been made at the Volcom Pipe Pro, the following five are some of the favorites:
J.O.B. Gets Things Rolling
In 2010, Volcom stepped up to sponsor the Pipe Pro and elevate the contest. More points and more money were added and the interest level immediately shot up a notch or two. The contest went from being a locals-only, underground affair to a full-stop barrel fest featuring the world's best. It's only fitting that Jamie O'Brien, a man that's made a career for himself surfing Pipe, should win it.
"Like they say, Pipeline is the proving grounds, and I'm more than happy to win the event," an ecstatic O'Brien said afterwards.
O'Brien's been a constant presence at the Pipe Pro ever since, factoring into multiple finals and coming ridiculously close to winning a couple of times. Year in and year out, he's consistently one of the most dangerous surfers in the draw.
The Reign of John John Begins
John John Florence started 2011 unsure of what the future may hold, but as things turned out it was a very good year for him. Just two weeks after winning the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout in pristine conditions, Florence dug deep to beat O'Brien in the final of the Volcom Pipe Pro to take the victory. It's not an understatement to say it was a historic moment.
"This means everything, my first win and my first final," said Florence after the final.
Using the momentum from Pipe as a springboard, by the mid-point of the year Florence was on the CT and competing at the highest level. He capped off the year with a 5th at the Pipe Masters, where he was defeated by Slater in the Quarters. Florence has since gone on to win two World Titles, numerous CT contests, as well as four Volcom Pipe Pro titles in 2012, 2013 and 2015, making him the winningest surfer in the history of the contest.
Florence won't be in the draw in 2019 as he continues to rehabilitate torn ACL and LCL tendons in his knee in anticipation of returning to full-time competition at the start of the 2019 CT season in March.
Slater Regains His Winning Ways
For Kelly Slater, victories have been harder and harder to come by the older he's gotten. In 2016 he claimed his first victory in two years with a win at the Volcom Pipe Pro. During one of the best winters on the North Shore in modern memory, Slater went next level in a Final that featured Pipe heavies O'Brien, Bruce Irons and Makai McNamara. The waves were absolutely firing, and once again, Slater demonstrated why he's considered surfing's G.O.A.T.
"It's been a while between drinks as they say in Australia," Slater joked after the hard-fought Final "It's been two years since I won an event, and it was this one. I feel good, it's obviously a great way to start the year off, it just flowed...got big waves, got some nice barrels, had some high scores...but what a day. Perfect southeast trades and big bombing surf."
The win was enough to get a conversation started about Slater's World Title hopes in 2016, which were reinforced later in the year when Slater won the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Unfortunately, the 11-time World Champ has been plagued by foot and back injuries the last couple of years and hasn't been able to perform at the level he's used to. The Volcom Pipe Pro and the Billabong Tahiti Pro wins stand as his last two WSL victories.
Like Florence, Slater won't be in the draw in 2019 as he continues to rehabilitate his injuries in anticipation of returning to full-time competition at the start of the 2019 CT season in March.
An International Player in the Mix
After being dominated by well-seasoned Pipe surfers, in 2017 the Volcom Pipe Pro got its first taste of international flavor when upstart Aussie Soli Bailey came out of nowhere to upset the field and take out the comp.
"This is definitely the biggest [win] of my career," Soli said. "To come here and stay cool, calm and collected right through the Final then take it out is just…it's a dream come true and one step closer to where I want to be."
Up against Irons, Adriano de Souza and Griffin Colapinto in the Final, it still stands as Bailey's only QS win in the last two years. That said, after a successful run on the QS in 2018, Bailey will get his crack at the big leagues in 2019 when he joins the CT for his rookie debut.
Here Comes the Moniz Boys
Joshua Moniz's victory at the 2018 Volcom Pipe Pro gave the locals a lot to cheer about and was proof positive that the Moniz family was about to take the surf world by storm. In the Final, Moniz managed to edge out O'Brien by a mere 0.13 of a point. The feat was even more impressive considering that O'Brien was holding a perfect 10 in his scoreline.
"One hundred percent this is the best win of my professional career," Moniz said after the Final. "The only win that will get better is a Pipe Masters, so hopefully down the line I can do one of those. But for now, this is by far the greatest win, I'm going to remember this forever."
All told, it was a good year for the Moniz boys. Josh ended the year ranked 56 on the QS, while younger brother, Seth finished 3rd and qualified for the CT, also receiving a wildcard into the 2018 Pipe Masters, where he gave World Champ Gabriel Medina a run for his money. Can Josh go back to back this year? Is it Seth's turn to take over the top spot on the podium? Obviously, it's too early to say, but when it comes to success at Pipe, the Moniz boys know how to get the job done.
Watch the Volcom Pipe Pro live January 29 - February 10 on the Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.