Stab Magazine | What Jamie O’Brien thinks about the Pipe Masters Trials

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What Jamie O’Brien thinks about the Pipe Masters Trials

Story by Jake Howard Sunset rumbled and warbled two days ago for the Triple Crown, but the real action was a few clicks down Kei Nui at the dirty old Pipeline. “It’s tricky out there today with a lot of different directions in the swell,” indicated Jamie O’Brien that afternoon. “But there are some good ones, for […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Story by Jake Howard

Sunset rumbled and warbled two days ago for the Triple Crown, but the real action was a few clicks down Kei Nui at the dirty old Pipeline.

“It’s tricky out there today with a lot of different directions in the swell,” indicated Jamie O’Brien that afternoon. “But there are some good ones, for sure.”

While he’s made a career out of being the guy that’s on every swell at Pipe every time it goes banzai, the impending Pipe Masters has admittedly been on Jamie’s mind, and this dose of mixed up, sand-clearing swell was the primer for what he’s hoping are bigger things to come.

“It’s going to be harder than ever to get into the Pipe Masters,” Jamie flatly states, while preparing for his afternoon paddle-out.

Let’s back up a minute: In 2004 the 21-year-old a hapa-Hawaiian went from trialist to winner of surfing’s most hallowed prize. He beat one Robert Kelly Slater in the semis, and stood tallest amongst an all-Hawaiian final, comprised of Bruce Irons, Sunny Garcia and Kalani Robb. Prior to JOB’s Cinderella story, Bruce’s Pipe Master’s win in 2001 and the formidable Johnny Boy Gomes’s win in ’97 were the only other Hawaiians to go from trials to title.

The chances of that happening this year are slim to virtually none. In 2007, after much to do, the ASP conceded and allowed 16 local wildcards to be absorbed into the main event. It was decided that 13 Hawaiians would be ushered in based on their performances in the Monster Pipe Pro (today the Volcom Pipe Pro).

But as announced earlier this year, much to the dissatisfaction of some in the North Shore surfing community, the number of wildcards has been cut from 16 down to two.


Two days ago in the a.m. Jamie was in the mix, ruling, as usual. This is a moment from that morning. Photo: Laserwolf

“It is what it is,” says Jamie, who was banned from the Triple Crown last year after an incident with Brazilian Ricardo Dos Santos, but holds aspirations of wrangling his way back atop the podium this year. “There’s nothing we can do about it except try and take advantage of the small opportunity we’ve been given.”

The small opportunity he speaks of is a special 32-man trials that will precede this year’s main event. Twenty-eight of the competitors are required to have ‘Hawaiian pedigree,’ and the winner and runner-up get tickets into the big dance. The prize purse is a legit $100,000 with 40 large going to the winner.

“They wanted to make it about the money, so that’s what it is,” says Jamie. “Pipeline is a special wave and there are people that dedicate their lives to surfing it, but this is the situation, there’s nothing we can do about it now but accept it and go out and surf.”

When asked if he felt it was unfair that so few local wildcards get a berth into the main event Jamie took the high road.

“Those guys on the world tour, they’re the best surfers in the world,” he said – this coming from a guy who burns ASP rulebooks for shits and giggles. “They’ve earned the right to go out and compete here under the same set of circumstances that they compete in at every other event around the world all year long, and they shouldn’t have to play by a different set of rules just because they are at Pipeline.”

Before scurrying out of his backyard with new pintail underarm, Jamie allowed a moment of reflection.

“Maybe someday that will change, but for now the trials is our opportunity to show the world what we’ve got, and we have to make the most of that.”


And another from two mornings ago. It’s no surprise Jamie has most of the tour’s numbers when the Masters lands in his front yard. Photo: Laserwolf


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