The Freak

Gary Kewley
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Friday - October 07, 2005
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Jamie O’Brien is the 2004 ‘Pipeline Master’

He’s the current 2004 “Pipeline Master,” the youngest man ever to win it. He won at Pipe the year before in another major event called the Hansen’s Energy Pipeline Pro. In this contest he defeated the likes of Bruce Irons, whom many consider the best tube rider living today. On this day, however ... it was somebody else. Who was this young man that beat Andy Irons’brother? Meet Jamie O’Brien, the “freak.”

Rip Curl rider Jamie O’Brien is 22 years young with more promise and raw talent than you can shake a surfboard at. Sure, he grew up surfing, right in front of the Banzai Pipeline. Sure, his dad, Mick O’Brien, was an Australian surfer/lifeguard who pushed his son to excel - but does this guarantee Jamie’s level of success? No way.

I lived with the O’Brien ohana about 10 years ago ... and when I say ohana I mean it. Mick’s place was your place. It was North Shore central. The vibe was busy with the surfing community, and little 12-year-old Jamie was right in the thick of it. You could tell back then he was above average. He didn’t talk much about his surfing - he let his surfboard do that. Jamie was just a good kid ... but plenty of decent kids get sidetracked! One never really knows when a talent will peak. All I know is that it’s an honor for me to have shared a slice of that O’Brien home life. Guys like this just don’t come around that often. I got a chance to catch up with both father and son O’Brien - both are very busy living a very good surfing lifestyle. I start this interview series with Jamie.

GQ: Yo, Jamie!

JO: Wussup, buddy?

GQ: I just talked with your dad; sounds like he’s doing a lot of wining and dining on your behalf these days (Mick is Jamie’s manager).

JO: Yeah, that’s his new job.

GQ: (Laugh) He says I’d better ask you who your favorite surfers are because it changes. Who are some these days?

JO: I’d say Bruce (Irons)... um ... Kelly (Slater, of course) and, let’s see ... Dane Reynolds.

GQ: Is Kelly gonna win the world title?

JO: Yeah.

GQ: (Laugh) Yeah, I know, but when people ask you these questions, do you think to yourself man, I know these guys personally, I gotta be careful what I say, who I support?

JO: It’s either Andy or Kelly. Andy’s gonna have to make a couple of really strong finishes, and Kelly’s gonna have to do really bad ... which you know, Kelly’s pretty consistent (slight understatement).

GQ: Your dad says he’s not really coaching you anymore, like when I was living there. He’s still gotta coach you to do your wash, but he leaves your surfing up to you. Is that true?

JO: Yeah, I mean, I got to that point where I couldn’t handle him telling me how to surf ... It got to the point where I thought to myself, ‘@#$!, I surf way better than you, why are you telling me how to surf?’

GQ: (Laugh) Well, what about Bruce (Irons), who has a coach? Would you be open to that?

JO: No, not really ... I just wanna surf and enjoy my surfing. I’m not worried about people telling me how to surf. I like to learn and have others’feedback, but at the same time it’s like, I know what I’m going to do and surfing good waves is going to make me a better surfer, you know?

GQ: Yep. What’s your favorite part of being a pro surfer?

JO: You get to do what you love ... you just get to surf and enjoy and relax with all the best surfers on all the best waves in the world.

GQ: Now, do you have an objective commitment in your mind to reach your goals, a training program?

JO: I have an idea of when I want to surf and when I don’t. I know when I should be in the water, and that’s when I’m surfing.

GQ: How many hours can you surf in a day? Can you surf eight hours?

JO: Ahhh, depends on how good the waves are… If it’s all-time, up to six hours, but I’ve surfed an eight-hour session before.

GQ: What’s your favorite thing you’re trying to do with your surfing these days?

JO: Progress ... progress the sport of surfing ... I guess, you know ... just push the limits.

GQ: Is there a state of mind you try to achieve, or an objective maneuver vs. a feeling?

JO: I’m just after having people enjoy watching my surfing probably more than anything.

GQ: Ahhh, I see. What you really are after is blowing peoples’ minds!

JO: Yeah, exactly.

GQ: And I gotta tell you’re fulfilling that goal! You’re pulling that off, Jamie. How does that make you feel when you reflect back?

JO: I want kids to be pumped to watch my surfing, so they can hopefully push the sport and take it to the next level.

GQ: Wow, that’s an honorable goal. What that really means is that you have a goal that’s bigger than yourself!

JO: Yeah, just tryin’to change the whole sport of surfing to a new level, you know?

GQ: Yeah! I remember having chats with you a decade ago. You had the talent, and now here you are. But isn’t it more than raw talent? What do you attribute it to?

JO: I think I was really lucky and blessed to live on the beach and have a good dad who gave me support and kept me in the water. And a lot of it is self-motivation.

GQ: Spoken like the champ you are, Jamie. Hey, I ran out of space interviewing you and will have to put some more of it on a future issue of Midweek the Weekend. Thanks for taking the time to catch up, Jamie, and good luck keeping your title as the World’s Pipeline Master during the upcoming Vans Triple Crown!

By the way, Jamie put out an insane video called Freak Show last year and he’s releasing another that promises to be even “freakier” in the near future. You’ll get a preview at the new

Well, that’s a wrap for this week. Be here next weekend as I give you more! A special mahalo to Sean Davey for the superb shot of Jamie O’Brien. Check out his work at

I’m GQ Dropping In 4 U!

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