Stab Magazine | From Stab Issue 51: The Greatest Story Never Told!
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From Stab Issue 51: The Greatest Story Never Told!

You’ve seen Jamie O’Brien’s third and best biopic, Who is JOB, right? Did you manage to work out what was going on in that intimate inside-the-tube footage from Teahupoo? Many big hitters reckon it might be the best water cinematography of all time… When a Red Bull boat trip in the Mentawai islands featured a […]

style // Feb 22, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

You’ve seen Jamie O’Brien’s third and best biopic, Who is JOB, right? Did you manage to work out what was going on in that intimate inside-the-tube footage from Teahupoo? Many big hitters reckon it might be the best water cinematography of all time…

When a Red Bull boat trip in the Mentawai islands featured a matinee screening of Who is JOB?, the arrow-back button copped a workout followed by intense discussion of three waves in particular. The footage featured an empty in-the-tube-looking-out shot where Jamie appears in the tube and frame. Bruce Irons thought the footage was the result of a creatively placed GoPro or even an Immer Secam with 360-degree vision but figured it was impossible because of its size. So, what actually went down?

The idea is way less hi-tech than you think. It was the idea of cinematographer, Chris Bryant. He approached Jamie with a simple equation. Why don’t you let a bodyboarder hold a 16mm camera, paddle beside you at six-foot Chopes and let him drop in and you surf past him in the pit?

Says Jamie: “Chris was, like, ‘I want you to pull in behind him and I want you to come around him in the barrel.’ I’m thinking, like, what the fuck, how am I gonna come round him?”

The bodyboader was Australian Simon Thornton, who lives on the point at Teahupoo. The plan was set. Jamie was gonna paddle for a set, Simon would drop in on him and halfway through the shot Jamie would magically appear. Jamie has to be the world’s best backside tuberider and coupled with an experienced bodyboarder, the plan seemed at least plausible.

Once on the wave, Jamie had to work out when was a good time to make the transition around Simon and come into frame. “I’d be just behind by his fins and ride behind his little track,” says Jamie. “Just as the wave starts to turn on the reef and go more round, I’d go below and come around him.”

We all know how much a drop-in does to toast a wave. Imagine riding the pit at Chopes and dealing with the foamy exhaust of a bodyboarder? Jamie says it wasn’t that bad to “skim by” but the trouble happened with his leash. Each time he’d go past SImon, his lash would wrap round his fins then follow by wrapping round his neck. “I could feel we were coming out but then the leash would grab and I’d fall. We’d both end up going over the falls.”

Rick Rifici, who’s been shooting for 25 years, was perplexed. “It’s definitely the best tracking shot in the tube I’ve ever seen,” he says. “I had my theories on how they did it but they didn’t make sense. I was surprised when I found out that it was a guy on a lid, it was pretty unique how there is no spray on the lens and the way the bodyboarder looks to slow down. Amazing.”

Before the wind turned, Jamie’s pal Adam “Biff” B’eselsito scored a nuts one (he’s the goofyfooter). The best wave, however, is in the film as an empty tube shot. Jamie is there but you never see him. “The best one I was stuck behind him the whole wave,” he says. “I was on his fins and his legs and I couldn’t get past him. And, I finally just got sunk in the foamball and slammed in the reef and he got spit out.”

It gets better. Jamie wants to do the same thing with former world bodyboard champ Mike Stewart (who’s also a keen cinematographer) and take the concept to eight-foot Backdoor Pipe.

“Imagine on a big fucker you guys both towing in?,” ponders Bruce Irons. “Oh my god, man! That would be fucken sick. Stewart going Mach 90 and coming around him. Too crazy!” – Sam McIntosh

On the wave that starts at 0:28, you’ll see Jamie cruise past the cam at 0:47. And, the wave that starts at 0:56, Jamie’s pal Adam “Biff” B’eselsito pops by at 1.:04

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