O'Brien crosses over for bodyboard event


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.