Stab Magazine | Jamie O'Brien, Right Now

Live now: How Surfers Get Paid, Season Finale


Jamie O’Brien, Right Now

Jamie O’Brien is the spirit animal of all those who’ve built a career around Pipeline. And while Mr O’Brien doesn’t need Pipe to impress, he certainly does his best work out there. Living a stone’s huck from the world’s most famous patch of reef will help do that to a man. But when the focus shifts and […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Jamie O’Brien is the spirit animal of all those who’ve built a career around Pipeline. And while Mr O’Brien doesn’t need Pipe to impress, he certainly does his best work out there. Living a stone’s huck from the world’s most famous patch of reef will help do that to a man. But when the focus shifts and the professional click of our collective world extract themselves from that strip of Oahu coastline, how does Jamie keep busy? In fact, how does Jamie keep himself occupied during winter when the swell ain’t at its best? It’s pretty simple: He turns to more challenging crafts that consist of no fibreglass. Oh! And, thanks to GoPro, Jamie’s also now one of the world’s most groundbreaking cinematographers. He just doesn’t know it yet…

Stab: Were you in a bodyboard contest the other day?
Jamie: Yeah! I lost, though. I wore fins and everything. My whole thing was to get barreled, like, if I can get barreled I’m gonna make the heat. I haven’t ridden a boogieboard for four years since someone stole mine. I asked Jeff Hubbard for a board and he told me I was a little too tall for his boards, and he said I should ask Mike Stewart. Mike gave me fins and a board. I was leading for the first half of the heat, like, I got these guys! Then the kids starting busting freaking airs. I only needed a four-something, it just wasn’t barreling enough.

How often do you ride a soft top compared to a fibreglass board? I ride it a lot. I’d say three to four times out of 10. You know why, though? You look at the waves some days, and you know sometimes you go, “It kinda sucks, but maybe it’d be fun on that board.” Because that board is way more challenging. The fun is in the challenge. I look at onshore Pipe now, before I used to be like, “Oh sick, I’m gonna go out there and do rodeos!” But now I’m like, “Oh, it’s a perfect soft top day!”

What can we expect from Who Is JOB 4.0? Just us trying to be reckless on soft tops, I suppose (laughs). We definitely scored some crazy shorebreaks on soft tops, and we surfed Jaws on them. We’ve still gotta shave Poppies’ eyebrow. He’s gonna get it.

Does each season also represent the various reincarnations of Jamie O’Brien? 2.0, 3.0, 4.0… I dunno. People are sometimes like, “You guys are trying to be Jackass, but really it’s just that I have a bunch of characters around me all the time. There is funny stuff going down all the time, so we just film it. Half the shit you don’t even see but the other half we get on footage, and it somehow works. Imagine living somewhere, you get bored and you and your buddies say, “It’s pouring rain, what are we gonna do today? We went to the water slide last time, let’s go to that sick puddle this time and pull into the barrel under the car wheel.” When we do our show, we’re adding something extra than the usual North Shore surf porn. It’s not the same shit.

Do you have the best life of any pro surfer in the world? People say that. It’s funny though, it’s just trying to come up with a sick plan when I’m bored. My life is awesome, but what adds to it is, I don’t have the competition vibe, which takes away the seriousness, so you end up with a really unstable set of friends and a really unstable idea of what’s normal. You get sidetracked really easy. I swear, I don’t live a normal life. I’ve got five people hanging out at my house every day. I don’t live a normal life, but I’m not complaining about it.

Which pro surfer has a better life than you? Shit, I don’t wanna judge other people’s lives. Everyone has a different perception of living the dream. I like what I do ’cause I have fun and enjoy it, I’m just a content provider, that’s how I look at it. The thing with GoPro works hand-in-hand with the show. And living with you filmer is a nightmare, but it becomes a reality of the show. Having Poopies come over and live with me, then I kick him out ’cause he’s out of control, and all these other people trying to out-do Poopies, it’s just like… what’s going on here?

How often do you surf with a GoPro? If I’m surfing Pipe, then eight times outta 10. And why not? The footage is ridiculous. I freak out ’cause I go surf, and I’ll get five, three, or two good ones, and I’m like, “I freaking cannot lose this camera, there’s straight gold on this.” That’s all I start thinking. I pull in and I’ll think, “Maybe I held it wrong? Maybe it didn’t record?” Then you’re walking up the beach and the photographers are all, “How’d that shot turn out man? That’ll be insane!” Then next thing I know I’m having a conversation with a videographer, which is kinda funny.

How many GoPros, on average, are in the lineup on a good Pipe day? When it’s big, maybe one or two. When it’s four to six feet, you’d see maybe six GoPros. And when it’s big, y’know, off the top of my head, it’s Kalani Chapman, Anthony Walsh, Gavin Beschen, and a few other guys are the ones using them. It’s definitely a mind-boggling task to actually film well with one. It’s hard, you’re taking off on the heaviest wave with this camera in your mouth, then you’re getting the camera out of your mouth while you’re in the barrel, trying to film for a different POV, then if you wipe out you’re trying to hold onto the camera for dear life… it’s challenging. That’s what I like about it.

When is the best time of year to be on the North Shore? February/March. Like, right now. It’s just all the boys that usually cruise at home in Hawaii. It feels more like home. I was surfing Backdoor with one other guy the other day and there were some drainers. That barely happens, ever.

And how’s your newly remodelled house? I put lipstick on a pig. – Elliot Struck


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent


Diamond Tail = Diamond Hands?

We'll explain everything in the Rusty D-Min Joyride.

Mar 27, 2023

Behold Australia’s Nine & NZ’s Two Challenger Series Qualifiers*

May the Southern Cross smile upon you at Snapper.

Mar 27, 2023

Long Read: Pete Beachy Is No Bore 

The life and times of an off-the-grid Alaskan surf pioneer who claims to cure cancer.

Mar 26, 2023


Watch: ‘Haiku’

Scenes From a Remote Reality, by Vans & Karina Rozunko

Mar 25, 2023

Sun Room: The Overnight Success Of A Young Surf Band

What's it like touring the world and living off of McDonald's?

Mar 25, 2023

How Surfers Get Paid, Episode 6

An instructional manual for the modern professional surfer

Mar 23, 2023


Caity Simmers — Extreme Competitive Surf Vlogger

Cool is chemical.

Mar 23, 2023

Globe Pulls Out Of The Apparel Game

…and, Taj Burrow and Dion Agius are now looking for new main sponsors.

Mar 22, 2023

Owen Wright Announces Retirement From Competitive And Heavy-Water Surfing

But will surf final CT event at Bells.

Mar 22, 2023


Fancy An Ale, Some Good Music, And A Bunch Of Tubes?

Ballet's minimalist full-length will satiate your needs.

Mar 22, 2023

João Chianca Spent Seven Years On The QS Without A Sponsor

And look where he is now.

Mar 22, 2023

Take Stab’s 2023 Audience Survey, Win A 3-Board Quiver

Stab towels and Premium subscriptions also up or grabs.

Mar 21, 2023

Jessi Miley Dyer On The New Challenger Series Schedule And More

Did you know that you could miss the mid-year cut and still theoretically win the…

Mar 20, 2023


Don’t Miss The Last Wave Of The First 2023 SEOTY Entry

Jacob Willcox's ‘Into Dust’ just set the bar.

Mar 20, 2023

Warren Smith on New Welcome Rivers Range and Buying Jaguars on Facebook Marketplace  

Now available in the Antipodes...

Mar 20, 2023


Wavegarden Spills How The Sausage Is Made

BTS of their global air wave rollout ft. Yago Dora, Dion Agius, Reef Heazlewood and…

Mar 18, 2023

Minds, Machines, And The Magic Of Hands

How modern shapers split their time between designing files and hand-finishing boards.

Mar 18, 2023


Are Hectic Lefts The Final Finless Frontier?

William Aliotti is on the right-foot-forward fringes.

Mar 17, 2023