Australian surfer Soli Bailey slips under radar to claim 2017 Volcom Pipe Pro

The Volcom Pipe Pro has typically been a Qualifying Series (QS) contest dominated by the likes of three Pipeline legends: Jamie O’Brien, Kelly Slater and John Florence. But in its eighth running this year, those first two names were nowhere to be seen after Round 3 wrapped up last week.

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While reigning world champ Florence seemed poised to take his fourth Volcom Pipe Pro, he ran into a slow heat and a flurry of waves for other competitors in the last seconds of his semifinal today. Leaving an opportunity for someone like Australian Soli Bailey in that semifinal, who no one really saw coming, to become the first surfer not named O’Brien, Slater or Florence to win the Volcom Pipe Pro.

Coming onto the set after the awards ceremony, Bailey was visibly coming off an extreme adrenaline high. But he couldn’t have been more happy and more thankful for his huge victory:

“That’s a pretty special chair-up, it doesn’t happen too often. Especially for an event with such prestige with who have won this event and the heavy waves that went down. It’s incredible to have my name up there with those guys, it’s pretty surreal. It’s hard to talk and say how I feel because it’s a lot.”

2017’s Volcom Pipe Pro was all about adapting to what Pipeline was throwing at you. On the first day it ran, Pipeline was set-up as a strange righthand pointbreak like Kirra. Then we saw Backdoor barrels on tap in a big way, along with some proper Pipe action to end last week and weekend.

Early standouts (and Pipeline regulars) like Makua Rothman, Seth Moniz and Mason Ho seemed poised to be there once the final came along. But that was not so either, despite Rothman bagging the only 10 of the event, Moniz putting Slater to bed in Round 3 (but he did snag the Todd Chesser Award) and Ho being arguably the most exciting surfer to watch in the first couple of days of the contest.

Today was certainly the peak of the war of attrition for 2017 Volcom Pipe champ Bailey. What started as a somewhat promising day with some solid barrels on hand quickly turned with a switch of the wind. Which gave the surfers a really tough go for the later rounds.

Magically, 10 minutes into the final the wind switched offshore and started cleaning Pipeline up. Coincidentally, that also came with a clean-up set that caught every single surfer inside and saw both Bailey and Bruce Irons needing jet ski pick ups.

Which left 2015 world champion Adriano de Souza, whom Bailey had a paddle battle with early in the heat, the closest person to the lineup and left alone all out the back for the first proper barrel of the final. San Clemente, California’s young Griffin Colapinto put up another great performance on the North Shore, which he did at the end of last season in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

Soli Bailey en route to the biggest win of his career. Photo: Courtesy of Keoki Saguibo/World Surf League

But it was Bailey who had himself a heat in the final. The Australian was picked by Red Bull Surfing’s Chris Binns at the beginning of the final day to take it all. And really, he may have been the only one who picked Bailey. But that’s not to say this hasn’t been an expected eventual trajectory for the 21-year-old.

Bailey, the guy who nearly got taken out by a dolphin last year, gutted out this victory to become only the fourth person to win the Volcom Pipe Pro.

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“This season started six months ago for me,” Bailey said after the contest. “I want to qualify [for the CT] this year. This is a great start, hopefully I can keep it going and have a great year.”

Now with a lead in the QS to start 2017, this could be the springboard Bailey needs to make himself a household name within pro surfing.