Benji Brand, originally from Cape Town but now representing Hawaii, is one of the favourites for the Volcom Pipe Pro beginning in Hawaii on Monday. Photo: Kelly Cestari/WSL

DURBAN – The Banzai Pipeline will once again play a major role in the World Surf League’s Qualifying Series this year when the 10th annual Volcom Pipe Pro takes to the waves on Monday on the North Shore of Oahu.

Last month a dramatic showdown ensued at Pipeline when the world title, the Vans Triple Crown and the Billabong Pipeline Masters titles were all decided in a matter of hours on the finals day on December 18.

While there will be no world titles on the line at the upcoming Pipe Pro, the event still remains one of the most prestigious events on the WSL’s busy Qualifying Series calendar.

The event runs late in the Hawaiian surf season, and compared to the Pipe Masters, it typically enjoys bigger and cleaner swells, courtesy of the wild winter storms that rage in the North Pacific Ocean.

This time round the event welcomes the top 144 surfers in the world, where qualification for the 2020 World Championship Tour will be top of mind for most of the contestants.

Topping the list of favourites for this year’s Pipe Pro title is 21-year-old Josh Moniz, who is the defending champion and part of the Moniz family dynasty in Hawaii.

Josh is the older brother of Seth Moniz, who recently qualified for this year’s Championship Tour, and their sister Kelia is a two-time world longboard champion.

Their father Tony also campaigned on the ASP World Tour in the 80s, and he too was a Pipeline stand-out.

Last year, Josh Moniz transitioned himself from a young rookie with big dreams to the real deal by beating fellow Hawaiian and 2004 Pipeline Master Jamie O’Brien in an epic final.

O’Brien opened up the final with a perfect 10-point ride, which should have easily secured him the title, but the tenacious Moniz showed his class and miraculously edged past O’Brien in the dying moments to take the win.

Counting the Pipe Pro as his biggest win to date, and seeing his brother graduate to the big leagues last year, Josh has set his sights on joining Seth on surfing’s biggest stage.

“It’s pretty crazy to be coming into this year at the Volcom Pipe Pro as the defending champion,” Moniz said in a WSL interview.

“After watching Seth smash the QS last year and qualify, I can’t wait to try and get there myself. I’m sure watching him on the Championship Tour this year will also get me fired up to join him.”

Cape Town’s Jordan Maree is seeded into the main event alongside Benji Brand, who is originally from Cape Town, but now living in Hawaii and representing the Hawaiian Islands.

Brand is also among the title favourites, having earned himself wild cards into the Billabong Pipeline Masters over the past two seasons.

Topping the list of the 144 contestants are Conner Coffin (USA), Sebastian Zietz (Hawaii), Ezekiel Lau (Hawaii), Yago Dora (Brazil) and Seth Moniz.

Independent on Saturday

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