The new king of Pipeline

Gary Kewley
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Friday - February 16, 2007
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Jamie O’Brien picks up another win at Pipeline, and a place in surfing lore
Jamie O’Brien picks up another win at Pipeline, and a
place in surfing lore

Howzit, surfers and beach-goers!

Wow, what a week last week - most of the excitement in the surfing world was right here in Paradise. We finished the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro Friday Feb. 9 on the last day of the permit. The infamous Banzai Pipeline did not disappoint. This sacred spot never ceases to amaze! Nor do the gladiators of this dangerous realm.

Nature kept contest directors gambling all the way through the two-week holding period, but in the end it was Pipe and her poss’ with the winning hands.

This is no easy task with five days of competition, 160-plus competitors from 11 different countries. Plus, we had almost a week of kona winds and closed-out surf on the outer reefs. Still, on the days it went ... it went off the hook.

One such day had some faces jack to near 30 feet, crest to trough. These monsters would break on the second reef and plow through the line up, even crunching some rescue skis. Imagine trying to get some footage in the impact zone - nuts! SNN’s very own Banzai Betty had to do that job, a very impressive job only few can handle.

Well, guess who went through the field heat by heat to win the No. 1 spot? It’s a guy most will say is one of the best ever to ride Pipeline.Make no mistake - if you can even get into a final heat out here you’ve made a name for yourself. Win one of these events at the Banzai and you claim your name on the eternal Surfing Hall of Fame. Jamie O’Brien has now done this three times, and he’s just 23 years young.

Indeed, Mr. O’Brien has just claimed his second Monster Energy Drink Pipeline Pro along with a Triple Crown Pipe Masters title (2004).

The waves were extremely challenging at 3:30 p.m. in the final heat of the day. Pipeline’s mood was angry, and she was throwing down some mean close outs from the North as well as 10-foot “A frames” from the West. As media liaison Jodi Wilmott noted:“A nasty current was tearing through the lineup after every set, and there were more than a few waves that were downright scary.”

Jamie, however, has seen this mood before and knew how to charm her (Ms. Pipe) and score the barrels he needed. It’s all about weaving the right lines to get deep inside the tubes and avoid getting dumped on. Jamie did just that within the first half of the final with two waves which gave him a total of 15.75 out of 20 (a very high combo in such conditions). The game was over at the halfway mark!

Amazing, especially considering one of the dudes in this epic final was a Pipe Master himself in 2000, Rob Machado. The other guy was Aussie Mark Matthews, who claimed the single best tube ride of the event with a perfect 10 and beat legends like Shane Dorian! Meanwhile, 20-year-old rookie Gavin Gillette from Kauai earned fourth, taking out names like Fred Pattacchia and Flynn Novak. Any one of these men has the ability to win out there.

Yet, to win when it counts ... over and over again ... is a sign of greatness.Another sign is how they see it all. How great champs view their victories. With humility, gratitude and hunger for more! Mere spectators see such levels of skill as something beyond ... that if they accomplished such a feat it would be more than enough for a lifetime of satisfaction. Hang it up ... game over ... no regrets.

Jamie O’Brien said it like he saw it: “I think the most stressful moments were counting those last 15 minutes down. Today was an amazing day. I knew it was going to be tough. Rob (Machado) has beaten me a lot out here and I thought he had my number. Mark’s an absolute madman and insane at going right at the Backdoor, and Gavin was surfing great.You just have to have the right moves - hold the other guys off the better waves and find the right one for yourself.It’s so hard to make a final at Pipe, so I’m stoked to have won this a second time. It definitely helps that I live right here and surf the wave every day, pretty much.”

Yes, spoken like a true champion. Congratulations, Jamie!

As for his guaranteed wildcard start in December’s Billabong Pipeline Masters? “Hmmm ... the Pipe Masters ... yeahhh, I’m definitely looking forward to that,“said O’Brien.“I wasn’t happy at all losing in the semis last year, so it’s time to set that straight and get in another final.”

OK, that wraps up this week. Remember to come down this Sunday to Las Palmas at Restaurant Row, 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. for SNN’s ‘Surf it ... Save It’ benefit and surf party! It’s free (but please bring some money)... and it helps Surfrider Foundation and Defend O’ahu Coalition’s keep the Country Country! It’s the night before Presidents Day ... so he approves this message. Log on to SURFNEWSNETWORK.COM for the juice! I’ll see you there and in the lineup.

GQ, dropping in 4 U!

Big Mahalos to Joem of SURFERPIX.COM for the images.

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