As we watch the clock tick out for the start of the Volcom Pipe Pro, here are four surfers who we are calling to be stand-outs at the event, accompanied by our very well-thought out reasons as to why they’re probably going to be killing it.

Dusty Payne was smashed at Pipe just over a year ago, and when we say smashed, we mean it. He blew a super-late take off, hit the Backdoor reef, and stayed under for five. Yep, five waves. That’s a long time, after he hit his forehead on the reef and was foaming at the mouth. The fact that he is around and smiling, let alone having a go at this event at the same location, is quite simply astounding. He has been back for a while however, looking fit and trim and he has been blasting some serious power whenever he paddles out, but he is most definitely contender for the ‘most serious mettle award’ and we think he will vindicate the nomination at this event. He is an experienced Pipe surfer, and no doubt the injury and the memories of that day last year will see him with a strong desire to overcome.   

Jack Robinson is another one of our favourites to do well out there simply because he is one of the best when the surf is thick, powerful, scary and barreling, which kind of describes Pipe on any given day. Robinson should be on the WCT but he is not going to get on the tour via the normal WQS route – it’s just not his game to grovel in 2-foot onshore mush around the world – but if he keeps on performing and killing it in waves of consequence and picking up a few wildcards here and there he could possibly do a Mikey Wright and qualify via a different route onto the CT. He has cracked the code at Pipe before, winning the Pipe Invitational 2015. His knowledge of Pipe, Teahupo’o and North Point is his unique skillset and if he gets the bombs he’ll win.

Sebastian Zietz is a former Vans Triple Crown winner, taking victory in 2012 when he was 24 years old. Since then he has been surfing successfully on the Championship Tour, and successfully at that. Last year he finished 14th on the tour after a few decent results throughout the year, with his best being a string of 5th place finishes, and as a result he lost his main sponsor. He’ll still be wearing Oakley shades, but he’s off their apparel line, and with a daughter about to arrive, he’s going to be pretty keen on either impressing a new sponsor or winning some coin. The combination of the above needs, as well as his crazy talent of tube riding and pulling unconventional, good-looking moves should see the judges putting down some big scores. Seabass is a great guy, but when he gets his eye in, he can be ruthless as fuck, and that’s going to happen.  

Benji Brand has come a long way in a fairly short time, especially at Pipe. It seems just the other day he was competing in the Quik King Of The Groms and the Billabong Junior Series in South Africa, finishing often on or around the podium. He’s not a big guy, and his backhand seems partially molded on the Occy school of thought, with power and spray in every turn. He has other skills however. After finding tube love in Namibia at Donkey Bay, Benji turned into a tube-riding fiend, and his GoPro clips from inside some of the longest tubes in history were quite simply otherworldly. He extended this skill to Angola, with some of the craziest lefts ever seen. (Go to 1:40)

Benji has extended himself one step further, with incredible skills at Pipe, macking or not. At the Billabong Pipe Masters, coming up from the trials, he was the favourite to beat Toledo in round 2, but just couldn't find the bomb he was looking for. Recently he has been free-surfing at Pipe and looking calm and relaxed in the maw of some rather stressful waves.

Many are claiming him as some sort of ‘new Pipe find’ but the truth is he has put in the time, and knows his way around the reef, going left or right. Simply put, he could win the event outright.