Like many young Australians before him Noa Deane arrived in Hawaii with a heap of hype and a lot to prove. He left as one of the standout surfers of the season. (Carey)

Do you still have to charge in Hawaii to be a good surfer?

Has Noa Deane’s career shifted after his performance in the backdoor shootout? Or does that macho shit just not matter anymore?

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So, the Volcom Pipe Pro got started today.

Two heats surfed before it turned a little funky and the powers that be decided to switch the event to “off for the day”. The Volcom Pipe Pro, as we all know, is consistently the QS event of the year by some way. Year on year, it outshines the WSL blue ribbon CT finisher of the Pipe Masters with better conditions and performances, and it’s not wrong to guess that the difference between the two events might have been the catalyst for the WSL’s plans to move the fabled Pipe Masters to the beginning of the year in the remodelled 2019 season.

Scroll through the competitors enrolled in this year’s Volcom Pipe Pro event, stop at Round 4 Heat 3 and you’ll find a curious inclusion and match up. Next to World Champ John John Florence is, wait for it… Noa Deane. Yes, free-wheeling, freesurfing, fuck the WSLing Noa Deane is in a WSL QS3000.

Noa Deane is of course a member of the Volcom team and would be included as a wildcard, and the Volcom Pipe Pro is of course no ordinary three turns to the sand onshore beachbreak QS event.

But Noa Deane also just competed in the much respected Da Hui Pipe event, the Backdoor Shootout, where he packed a Backdoor bomb, and the word on the Coconut Wireless is that he has turned heads and won the respects of the North Shore for his efforts.

Can a talented grom at your local have respect in the line-up if they go missing on the big days? Or does all that macho brochacho stuff just not matter in surfing anymore?

Noa Deane is arguably the world’s best freesurfer. And in 2018 that, arguably being the case, is interesting because that could never have been possible two decades ago without a truly significant Hawaiian performance in your resume.

As Ross Clarke Jones said about Kelly in Kelly Slater in Black and White all those years ago: “If he can do what he does everywhere else in the world, if he can do that here in Hawaii, he’ll be the best surfer in the world I reckon, for a long time. Unless he gets aids…” (6.04 below)

Meaning: You can’t be considered one of the best unless you can make it in Hawaii. That you’re not truly proven until you can mix it with the big boys at the Pipeline.

But despite these rustling reports of Noa’s Pipe exploits, we’ve heard very little about it back on Australian shores (although, that could be due to the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout not having the slickest of media outreach).

On the same side of another coin, we have Soli Bailey.

Soli Bailey dominated the Volcom Pipe Pro last year in an event that contained heavy names like Bruce Irons, John John Florence, Makua Rothman, Kelly Slater, Jamie O’Brien as well as a who’s who of local Pipe chargers, but after a couple of days of “how sick is that?” no-one seem to pay any notice that Soli Bailey took down an event at surfing’s greatest arena, against its greatest gladiators, and finished first in every single heat along the way. And it was pumping.

In year’s past, coming back from beating those kinds of names, in that kind of a competition, at that kind of a surf break, Soli would have been an Australian surfing superstar… no? Shit, the only other surfers to have won the event are Jamie O’Brien, Kelly Slater, and John John Florence. Soli is respected, sure, but certainly not in the way an Aussie surfer with the same achievements would have been in the early 90s.

So the question begs:

Does Noa Deane’s performance at Pipe change how we perceive his career? Is it still the case that you can’t be one of the world’s best until proving yourself in Hawaii? Can a talented grom at your local have respect in the line-up if they go missing on the big days? Or does all that macho brochacho stuff just not matter in surfing anymore? Has surfing evolved to appreciate a wider spectrum of all the things good surfing is, of all the various types of surfing that can make up what it means to be a good surfer?

Mike Jennings