Jamie O’Brien Is Soft

At 2 p.m. on December 13, as Kieren Perrow announced the cancellation of Round 3 of the Pipeline Masters via live webcast, an out-of-focus, bright pink something was seen streaking into a first reef bomb in the background. Turns out it was Jamie O’Brien riding a pink, 5’6”, soft top Catch Surf quad. That evening, it was all anyone was talking about. Was it an act of defiance? A middle finger to the ASP? According to Jamie, that’s overthinking it. So why ride a tiny piece of pink foam at maxed out Pipe? Because, well, it’s fun. -Laurie Morton

JAMIE: That day at Pipe was the first time I’d ridden the 5’6” Skipper. It was a four-fin setup. Honestly, I wasn’t planning to surf Pipe. I was paddling out to Gums because I saw some crazy waves over there, but as I was walking down the beach, Owen Wright told me they were putting the contest on hold. So I was like, you know what, I’m just gonna go out there [to Pipe] and give it a shot. People thought it was planned or whatever, like I was trying to mock the ASP for not running, but that’s not what was happening at all.

First wave, I got spit out. I was tripping on how good the board worked. It made me realize you can ride anything at Pipeline; it’s all about putting yourself in the right position to catch the wave. It really blew my mind. But then I got my second wave, and it would have been the best wave I made all winter, but the foamball picked me up and started pushing me forward. For a minute I thought I was going to pull it off, but it ended up launching me and I got the most pounded I’ve gotten all winter. I was kind of disappointed after that, because this is the third winter in a row where I caught a wave that could contend for Wave of the Winter while riding a soft top, and I blow it every time. [laughs] But you know what, I have so much fun pushing my own boundaries that it’s worth it.

For me those boards add an element of fun to surfing. There’s nothing more to it. The new Catch Surf boards are amazing. The boards don’t break, so it’s like the demolition derby of surfing. You just go HAM. I had one wave this winter that tried to break my neck at Keiki, but otherwise it’s all been fun. It’s a full adrenaline rush. From Waimea shorebreak to Sharks Cove to Keiki to Pipe or wherever, it’s just a totally different type of way to go surfing.