Kalani on the outside, and Jamie on the inside. Both feeling the rush of imminent danger. Photo: Nick Ricca
Jamie O'Brien and Kalani Chapman surf Jaws on soft tops
Jamie O'Brien plucks the outermost realms of riding unconventional crafts in waves of consequence. We've seen him go over the falls at Pipe on blow-up toys. We've seen him at Pipe on a soft top longboard, trying board transfers mid-barrel. In fact, we've seen him on that soft top at both Pipe and Backdoor surfing the place like few could ever hope to.
Where does it end? Certainly not here. Today, Jamie, along with pals Kalani Chapman and the dazzling enigma that is Poopies, rode 25-foot Jaws on Catch Surf soft top logs. Stab absolutely had to discuss this activity with Jamie, via phone conversation moments before he boarded a plane from Maui back to Oahu...
Stab: Did your sponge hold its own?
Jamie: It went pretty good! Kalani Chapman and I caught a really nice one together, then I got a big one and went straight. I rode the soft top for a few hours in the morning, then I changed to my normal board for two more hours, then I rode the soft top for another hour and a half. It was probably 25 on a couple out there. Some big waves, f'sure. It was definitely really challenging. I must've looked like an idiot in the lineup. It's kinda nerve-wracking 'cause you don't know what you're getting yourself into, really. You just hope for the best, hope it's gonna be everything you dreamed of (laughs).
Does it paddle like your normal board? It paddles really good, I caught the waves I wanted to catch, y'know? I mean, they're just really thick, those Catch Surf boards. I was on a 7'0", I got like a 15-footer on a 7'0" (laughs). The only difference is that I sat on the West bowl with the soft top, whereas normally I sit out the back on the north bowl. Just 'cause my normal board is bigger and you get longer waves from the north to the west. You'd have to be pretty unlucky to get a big one on the head. You've definitely gotta be really aware of what's going on, though.
Is the appeal all in the challenge of riding a really hard-to-ride board at a really hard-to-surf spot? Yeah. We're just messing around, trying to take it to another level of, kinda stupidity, but also of having fun. See where can we push the soft top realm, y'know?
Do people look at you like, what the fuck is this guy doing? All morning. Kalani Chapman, Poopies and I walked down the Jaws hill and guys were laughing, shaking their heads, like, "You guys are crazy."
Does it ever feel weird like, there's guys out there taking it seriously and then you breeze past on this foam thing? Well I mean, it definitely is serious for us. But at the same time… I dunno, I just really wanted to do it, and we were filming it for our show, and we got it done. It was just for shits and giggles, and we got it done on a nice, clean, fun day at Jaws. It wasn't too heavy, y'know? Though, there were some heavy waves.
How'd Poopies go out there? He, um, I pushed him into an eight or 10 footer at the end, 'cause he didn't really want one all day, he only got two smaller ones. So I pushed him into one. We just saw the picture of him wiping out on the wave, it looks like Nazare. He's about to hit the water in the shot and he looks like he's flying.
Foamies can feel like they're anchored. Can you describe what it feels like to ride a big wave on one? Over there, you kinda need to go straight, but on a steep one going straight it's pretty critical, probably the most concentrated I've ever been on a drop. Or at least, in a long time. And once you put it on rail the fins start flexing out all over the place, it's real, real strange. Then you jump back on your 10'6" and it feels so insane. Y'know how they say, "Ride your longboard and then go ride your shortboard"? Well, go ride your soft top at Jaws and then go ride your 10'6".
Can you please do a board transfer at Jaws? I dunno about that. We'll keep that one on the cards for some time in the near future... Maybe (laughs). – Elliot Struck