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O'Brien crosses over for bodyboard event


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POSTED: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Turbo Pipeline Pro kicked off yesterday with 8-to 14-foot wave face heights, big barrels and an unlikely wild-card competitor.

Former Pipeline Master and professional surfer Jamie O'Brien, 25, competed in the International Bodyboard Association's Grand Slam event yesterday. O'Brien, a North Shore native, was raised with Pipeline as his backyard and has an intimate knowledge of the world's most dangerous waves.

He is widely known as "Mr. Pipeline" in the surf community. But yesterday, O'Brien put on his Viper fins, grabbed a Science "boogie" board, paddled out in Round 4, and for the 15-minute-long heat—he was a bodyboarder.

"The conditions were kind of peaky and windy. Some steep drops, but there was definitely some good waves to be had," said O'Brien, after finishing in third place and narrowly missing qualification to the next round. Australians Damian King in first and Josh Garner in second advanced over O'Brien.

"I was a kind of a little bit nervous," O'Brien said. "I wished I made those couple of waves I had and I would have felt a lot better, but at least I made the drops."

Despite only bodyboarding a handful of times this past winter, O'Brien looked poised and ready during the heat. That's probably because O'Brien was a Hawaii state amateur association bodyboard champion as a youngster.

"I used to boogie a lot when I was younger," O'Brien said. "I always had fun and I used to stand-up bodyboard a lot and then I think I go too big so I started surfing a lot more."

O'Brien gained entry into the IBA's first event of the 2009-10 season on a request by Mike Stewart, 46, who is a nine-time bodyboard world champ, an 11-time Pipeline Pro champ and a living legend in the sport.

"After hearing from Jamie in the lineup that he was sincerely interested in entering, I ran it past the IBA's Hawaii board, and local riders who where all for supporting him for a number of reasons," said Stewart who will compete in Round 8 of the Turbo Pipeline Pro on the second day of competition. "It's been really funny to watch everyone react so intensely as it seems the only real damage that is being done is to people's egos, which I would have to say is a very healthy thing for a lot of wave riders to endure these days."

Despite not making the cut this year, O'Brien was extremely elated and flattered about his experience yesterday as a competitive bodyboarder. He is even making plans for next year's Pipeline Pro.

"I was definitely stoked they gave me the wild card. I felt honored because I'm not even a boogie boarder," O'Brien said. "We're all riding waves and I was stoked (the IBA and pro bodyboarder community) respected that. Who knows? Next year I want to make the finals. That's my goal."

Ten days remain in the holding period with two full days of competition left.