Tracks: Hey Soli, has it sunk in yet? 

Soli: Yeah, I’m actually a bit rundown. I think it’s sunk in well and truly. I hit my peak and now I’m sick as a dog (laughs). I just got home last night. I was pretty stoked. It was a crazy flight home, I had a smile on my face the whole way and couldn’t sleep at all.

Tell us about the finals’ day. Was there any point where you thought ‘Yep, I’m going to win this’?

I was so focussed that I didn’t even realise I was in the final, it was just like another heat that I was surfing. But at the same time, there was a point when I was running down the beach before the final that I said to myself ‘I think I’m going to win this event’. It’s hard to explain, but you know how the water washes up on the shore in Hawaii and you kind of jump in with the surge? I was jogging down to the water from where I was standing and I didn’t mean to time it as well as I did, but I timed it perfectly and just fell straight into the rhythm of the ocean. It was a weird feeling. I was paddling out with a really good feeling in my stomach. I wouldn’t say I was telling myself I was going to win it, but I had a better feeling than usual. And then pretty much the whole heat other than breaking the leash worked for me—the waves I took, coming out of the barrels before they clamped. Because as good as it was, it wasn’t perfect. The waves were still pretty testing.

And how did it feel standing on the podium knowing you’d just trumped a field that contained Slater, John John, Bruce and a host of other surfing greats?

I think at that moment when I was standing there it was just so overwhelming. I was pretty much baffled completely, stoked and shocked. It really sunk in after the event because it had never crossed my mind that I would be the fourth name on that list of people to win it. I was just so focussed on surfing each heat and each moment and catching waves that it wasn’t until an hour or two after the presentation that I went ‘Holy shit, my name’s up there with those guys, that’s pretty cool!’

And how’d you celebrate?

We went to Lei Lei’s and had ribs and a few too many mai tais. Everyone was there, it was a really good vibe.

Pipe is obviously a notoriously hard wave not only to surf, but to get waves at as well. Do you feel like you’ve got more comfortable out there over the last few seasons?

I’ve definitely got more comfortable out there. I still don’t catch any waves, or any of the waves I want to catch, but once I’m in a heat and you can pick any wave you want I definitely feel more comfortable out there now. Just from surfing as many heats as I have out there over the last three years and freesurfing over the last eight.

So you’ve just won one of the most prestigious qualifying events there is and are now on top of the QS ratings. What’re your goals for the year? You looking to qualify?

Yeah, that’s the plan. As prestigious as it is (the Volcom Pipe Pro) it’s only 3000 points, which is only just a keeper to qualify, so there’s a big long year ahead of me and this result really won’t matter. I mean, it’s a great result and something I’ll remember forever, but it won’t matter unless I make it count at the end of the year and I’m sitting inside that top ten waiting to surf the Pipe Masters and the 2018 season.

And how are you going to achieve your qualification goals this year?

I’m just going to stay focussed and surf all the 6000s and 10,000s and just take it event by event. Not get overwhelmed when you come up against those guys, there’s a lot of big names there, and everyone surfs so well, it’s just a matter of catching waves and having fun.

Sounds like a plan, Soli. Congratulations mate and good luck with the rest of the year!