Who doesn't love a red-headed, slightly paunchy switch-hitter!
Jamie O’Brien, the thirty-ish surfer who lives almost beachfront at the Pipe, is among the three best surfers at Pipeline. If John John Florence and Kelly Slater were to be magically evaporated by a sharia gang patrolling the North Shore, say, he would be number one.
Jamie started surfing Pipe switch because he “felt like he needed a challenge out there.”
At first, he’d get smoked and then he learnt to set his rail. “Choose the right wave and Pipe’s as easy as any wave in the world,” says Jamie. “Choose the wrong way and there’s nowhere as dangerous.”
He has more…
1. Don’t commit until you know the wave is right. “I’ll be paddling into a wave and won’t know,” says Jamie. “Don’t decide until you know. You want an easy roll-in, not something where you’ve got to air drop. Every time I’d commit even when it’d suck up and every time I’d eat shit, eat shit, eat shit. You need the easy entries.”
2. Feel the beginner jive. The only thing you can bring from your past surfing experiences is your wave and ocean knowledge. For your entire surfing life, your left or right leg has moved to the front of your board and suddenly it’s supposed to go to the other end. “You’ve got to move weight to the centre of the board,” says Jamie. “It doesn’t feel right at the start but otherwise you’ll get lipped in the head because you’re stalling.”
3. Loosen an ego. “I’m not that good at it,” says Jamie. “The most important thing is to set your line. The simplest thing is the hardest. Once you get that you can mow down a wave. You can trim and then work out how to turn.”
4. Y’heart’s gonna race. “It’s scary,” says Jamie. “You don’t know how to control your board any more. You look like a total kook but when you make a tube or a wave it feels… it feels… magnificent.“