Surfing Jaws on a Soft Top, with Jamie O'Brien

Jamie O'Brien, Kalani Chapman and Poopies take on 25-foot Peahi riding Catch Surf soft tops.
Jamie O'Brien And Friends Surf Jaws On Soft Tops © Stab/ Nick Ricca
By Elliot Struck

Jamie O'Brien is certainly known for riding unconventional crafts in waves of (real) consequence. Like, his soft top longboard at Pipe and Backdoor, and then trying board transfers on that same longsponge at, yep, Pipe and Backdoor. Some question his sanity for such acts, but most applaud. His latest feat of bringing a knife to a gun fight happened yesterday at Peahi, less fondly known as Jaws, Hawaii's most (in)famous big wave reef. Jaws sits on Maui and only breaks when the swell's over 20 feet – It's a crushing deep water right and left peak that takes no prisoners. It's very, very unadvisable to surf Jaws without ski assistance. Those who take it on ride boards that are lengths like 10'6" (that's Jamie's normal Jaws weapon) and wear inflatable vests for safety. Suffice to say, the place should not be taken lightly.

Which is why, of course, Jamie tried to surf it at 25 feet on a 7'0" Catch Surf soft top with plastic fins.

"It went pretty good!" Jamie told Stab Magazine yesterday. "Kalani Chapman and I caught a really nice one together, then I got a big one and went straight. I rode the soft top for a few hours in the morning, then I changed to my normal board for two more hours, then I rode the soft top for another hour and a half. It was probably 25 on a couple out there. Some big waves, f’sure. It was definitely really challenging. I must’ve looked like an idiot in the lineup. It’s kinda nerve-wracking ’cause you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, really. You just hope for the best, hope it’s gonna be everything you dreamed of (laughs).

"It paddles really good, I caught the waves I wanted to catch, y’know? I mean, they’re just really thick, those Catch Surf boards. I was on a 7’0″, I got like a 15-footer on a 7’0″ (laughs). The only difference is that I sat on the West bowl with the soft top, whereas normally I sit out the back on the north bowl. Just ’cause my normal board is bigger and you get longer waves from the north to the west. You’d have to be pretty unlucky to get a big one on the head. You’ve definitely gotta be really aware of what’s going on, though.

"We’re just messing around, trying to take it to another level of, kinda stupidity, but also of having fun. See where can we push the soft top realm, y’know? Kalani Chapman, Poopies and I walked down the Jaws hill and guys were laughing, shaking their heads, like, “You guys are crazy.”

Read the full interview over at Stab Magazine.

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