Jamie O’Brien is not quite normal. While other pro surfers follow the competition circuit on the hunt for a world title and others probe the Earth’s coastal nooks and crannies in search of the perfect wave, you’re more likely to find O’Brien at his home wave, Bonzai Pipeline. Perhaps dressed as a caveman. Or surfing the famous wave on a blow-up couch he bought at Walmart.
O’Brien documents all of the mayhem on his YouTube channel, which has drawn hundreds of thousands of subscribers. “It’s funny how our YouTube channel has taken off,” he muses. “We’ll get more views than an edit that someone will put up and they’ll spend a ton of money on it. We’re trying to show the world that surfing’s not as serious as everyone portrays it to be.” That agenda comes through in videos that are more reminiscent of Jackass than a dreamy surf flick.
O’Brien does compete a little though; he and his crew recently won Red Bull Party Wave by riding a knee-high wave on a giant, roughly 800-pound board. And he travels too; earlier this year, he and his team ventured to Bali, not to seek out the flawless waves the Indonesian island is known for but to go on vacation and have some fun. Of course, even low-stakes travel can produce hiccups — O’Brien seemed to hold in his frustration while recounting how his group arrived at the airport to face an extra charge of $165 for each surfboard they traveled with (nine in total).
Once in Bali, though, everything ran smoothly. “We ended up surfing this small wave in Bali called Dreamline. I think when people see a pro surfer and their crew going to film something, they think they’re going to get these big crazy perfect waves, and we went total opposite,” he recalls. There was no shortage of antics, either, mainly involving foam surfboards and a few inflatable pool toys from a convenience store. When it came time to fly home, O’Brien and his friends blew off their nickel-and-diming airline and bought tickets to Australia instead (and didn’t have to pay extra for their boards, either).
O’Brien is an atypical pro surfer, and as such, the packing list for a trip to Bali might not be what you’d expect.
Jamie O’Brien’s Packing List
Catch Surf Womper
It’s like a mini boogie board that you use for hand planing in body surfing. I brought some fins so if the waves ended up being knee-high, I could still get barrelled.
Catch Surf Beater
It has no fins, and you ride it kind of like a stand-up boogie board. From doing six or seven 360s on one wave to running people over — but it doesn’t matter because you don’t have fins — it’s just a cool board to have in your board bag. Even though I paid $165 to get it over there — it was just like, you deal with price. I’ve been bringing it on a lot more trips, but I’d never brought one to Bali.
Vendetta 9’0″ Single Fin Log
Bringing my girlfriend’s board was a good idea. The waves were small most of the trip, so we got to surf together a lot and have a good time. And at the same time, being able to film it all and everyone’s reaction, I loved it.
Forgotten Item: Fin Screw
I forgot the screw to screw in [my girlfriend’s] fin. Trick tip: if you have the plane ticket, you put it in between the fin and the board, and you jam the fin in and rip the sides of the plane ticket out. The paper swells, and then you don’t need a screw, and your fin stays in.
Ride Anything Hat
It’s so hot over there; it’s so nice to change your hat. If you only brought one hat to Bali, that thing would get so grimy. We started making these last year. It’s a nice, comfortable five-panel hat. I love the term “Ride Anything” because that’s literally what we do, it really fits the script of who we are.
Inflatable Pool Tubes
I bought a bunch of floaties from the ABC store for about $3 each. We brought them down to the beach, and the next thing you know, we’re going over the falls and getting barreled on inflatables. It was so much fun, and we got so much use out of them. And none of them popped — it was pretty amazing, people were baffled.