O’Brien Tames Giant Pipeline To Win Hansen’s Energy Pro

Monday, February 24, 2003 (Honolulu, HAWAII) – Pipeline local Jamie O’Brien reached the peak of his 19-year-old life today, winning the Hansen’s Energy Pro in potentially deadly 15-25 foot waves at Pipeline. ‘Energy’ was the name of the game and a pre-requisite for survival as the final four rounds of competition were held in some of the most breath-taking, yet life-threatening conditions ever contested at Pipeline. But it was O’Brien’s combination of local knowledge and ability to maintain composure and tube-riding form under extreme stress that saw him take the victory. O’Brien earned $7,000 and 750 points towards the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) ratings – a great start to his campaign to qualify for the elite World Championship Tour this year.

The 35-minute final was an all-Hawaiian affair, second place going to defending event champion Bruce Irons (Kauai, $3,500), third to Joel Centeio (Haleiwa, $2,500), and fourth to Jamie Sterling (Haleiwa, $2,000). The highest placed non-Hawaiian was Laguna Beach, CA., surfer Mike Todd, who placed third in the semi-finals behind Irons and Centeio for a final position of equal fifth place. The highest placed international surfers, making it to the quarter finals, were Damon Harvey (Australia, =9th), and Andrew King (Australia), Josh Fuller (Australia), and Blair Stewart (New Zealand), all equal 13th.

Glory came at a price today and no-one escaped Pipeline unscathed. The waves were thrilling to watch but bordered on unrideable at times as they feathered from way out on the second and third reefs. Every surfer charged and the outcome was either the take-off and tube-ride of a lifetime, or a wipeout that could only be compared to having a three story building collapse on you. The surfers unanimously agreed that today was one of the heaviest days of surfing ever at the Pipeline. Laguna’s Mike Todd put it best: “If there wasn’t a contest on, I wouldn’t be surfing out there.” To his credit, Todd made the drop into some the scariest and biggest waves of the day – like nothing you would ever see in a lifetime at Laguna.

The final was a summary of all that Pipeline was today. There were plenty of cavernous tubes, more than a few giant close-outs, and enough horrific wipeouts to raise the blood pressure and heart rate of every spectator that packed the beach.

Jamie Sterling charged into the first wave of the 35-minute final, pushing top gear as he had done all day. He hurtled vertically down a 20-foot face of blue, cranked a turn at the bottom and lifted into a huge barrel that closed out in a wall of whitewater for four points out of 10. The crowd was on their feet as Sterling took set wave after set on his head and ended up near shore. Then came the top exchange of the heat. Bruce Irons stressed out the crowd as he opted for a 10-foot wave at Backdoor Pipe (the right-handers). The rights were breaking in less than three feet of water and Bruce had to make it out of the barrel to avoid injury. He disappeared for three seconds then shot out in a mist of spray for a score of 8.5 points. No sooner had Irons emerged than O’Brien came flying down the face of a 12-footer, stalled at the bottom and pulled up into a tube that was as wide as it was high. O’Brien sat deep inside, arms outstretched and exited cleanly for 9.5 points. Centeio made a couple of breath-taking drops but was unable to find the tube-rides. After that each surfer scored major respect but only low scores as they took off on giant set waves of up to 25 feet that either offered little after the take-off or ended in disaster. Irons took off with just 15 seconds to go in a last ditch attempt to overtake O’Brien, but instead hurtled head-first into one of the worst close-out sections of the day. As the wave barreled over him, he appeared to be standing in a huge room that imploded. Somehow he surfaced unhurt.

“That was the future right there,” said Orien after the final. “Everyone in their 20’s (O’Brien is 19) and all of us were charging in huge Pipe. This is the best day of my life. This was one of the heaviest days of Pipe and it’s been incredible. I don’t even know what else to say. From here, I’m off to Australia and I hope to qualify this year for the World Championship Tour.”

Jamie Sterling summed it up in one sentence: “I’ve had so many amazing rides today that in my mind it has just turned into one big barrel.”

Sterling was one of just three surfers to post perfect 10 point rides today. It was in his semi-final that he dropped into one of the biggest tube-rides of the day and rode deep inside for four seconds before shooting out with white-water that then sent him into a high-speed cartwheel. The other two surfers to post 10’s were Marcus Hickman (Haleiwa) in the quarters, and Evan Valiere in round four. Valiere earned special recognition today, posting the highest heat score in that round with 18 points out of 20, and winning a special award for being the surfer who charged the most fearlessly throughout the event. He experienced the best and the worst of Pipeline with a perfect 10, a handful of hideous wipeouts and broken surfboards.

More than a dozen surfboards were crushed by the waves today, but incredibly there were no serious injuries. New Zealander Blair Stewart faired the worst in round four, suffering a horrible wipeout on a 15-foot wave that bounced him tailbone first into the reef. He was able to make his way in to the shore where he received medical attention. Unfortunately he had earned enough points to advance to the quarter finals but was unable to return to the water. At last report, Stewart was off to receive X-rays to ensure there was no serious damage.

Kainoa McGee (Honolulu) had a near-death experience in the semi-finals after diving under a huge close-out wave that pinned him underwater for so long he ran out of air. A world-class body-boarder who made his pro-surfing debut this week, McGee was awesome in every round. But the semi’s shut him down.

“That’s the closest I’ve ever come to death,” McGee said. “I dived down under one of those huge sets and it all turned to black. The wave pinned me down and tried several times to get to the surface, then I felt the wave pull my board and drag me under again. I ran out of air and it is just black. I had given up when I finally got to the surface. By then I was way down the beach and it took forever to get out again.” In fact, McGee’s wipeout was such an ordeal that even though he eventually made it back out, he never managed to post a single score during the heat.

Every single surfer’s performance was worthy of individual mention today. In the arena of world class professional sport they proved so much:

Surfing is a sport that demands incredible athleticism and peak physical conditioning.Professional surfing extends far beyond financial reward and recognition – you would be hard pressed to find anyone that would paddle out into Pipeline as it was today and takeoff on the biggest sets going for a possible $7,000.Every surfer out there showed that they were willing to pay the ultimate price for the ultimate ride, just for the sake of proving it to themselves.

The $50,000 Hansen’s Energy Pro is a 3-star World Qualifying Series event sanctioned by the Association of Surfing Professionals. It offers critical points towards qualifying for the World Championship Tour, which crowns the world champion of surfing each year. In addition to the surfing competition, Hansen’s this week launched a 3,000,000 nationwide can campaign featuring the Hansen’s Energy Pro logo and the wording: “Pipeline Hawaii”.
RESULTS:
Final:
1st. Jamie O’Brien (Haleiwa) $7,000 10.9 points
2nd. Bruce Irons (Hanalei, Kauai) $3,500 9.9 points
3rd. Joel Centeio (Haleiwa) $2,500 7.7 points
4th. Jamie Sterling (Haleiwa) $2,000 6.4 points

Semi Finals:
3rd=5th place $1,500; 4th=7th place $1,000
H1: Jamie O’Brien, Jamie Sterling, Evan Valiere (Kilauea, Kauai), Marcus Hickman (Haleiwa)
H2: Bruce Irons, Joel Centeio, Mike Todd (Laguna, CA), Kainoa McGee (Honolulu)

Quarter Finals:

3rd=9th place $900; 4th=13th place $800H1: Evan Valiere, Marcus Hickman, Myles Padaca (Haleiwa), Andrew King (Australia)
H2: Jamie Sterling, Jamie O’Brien, Dustin Barca (Kilauea, Kauai), Blair Stewart (New Zealand) injured in 4th round
H3: Joel Centeio, Kainoa McGee, Jason Bogle (Kailua), Josh Fuller (Australia)
H4: Bruce Irons, Mike Todd, Damon Harvey (Australia), Shawn Sutton (Ewa)

Round 4:

3rd=17th place $700; 4th=25th place $600
H1: Andrew King, Myles Padaca, Nathan Carroll (Haleiwa), Love Hodel (Haleiwa)
H2: Evan Valiere, Marcus Hickman, Aaron Fredette (Haleiwa), Fred Patacchia (Haleiwa)
H3: Jamie O’Brien, Dustin Barca, Jesse Merle-Jones (Kilauea, Kauai), Tamayo Perry (Haleiwa)
H4: Jamie Sterling, Blair Stewart, Kahea Hart (Haleiwa), Chris Ward (San Clemente, CA)
H5: Jason Bogle, Kainoa McGee,  Che Stang (Carlsbad, CA), Randall Paulson (Waipahu)
H6: Josh Fuller, Joel Centeio, Mikala Jones (Haleiwa), Jay Thompson (Australia)
H7: Bruce Irons, Shawn Sutton, Derek Ho (Haleiwa), Chaz Akers (Cardiff, CA)
H8: Mike Todd, Damon Harvey, Makua Rothman (Haleiwa), Kaipo Jaquias (Waipahu)
 
Semi Finals:
3rd=5th place $1,500; 4th=7th place $1,000
H1: Jamie O’Brien, Jamie Sterling, Evan Valiere (Kilauea, Kauai), Marcus Hickman (Haleiwa)
H2: Bruce Irons, Joel Centeio, Mike Todd (Laguna, CA), Kainoa McGee (Honolulu)

Quarter Finals:

3rd=9th place $900; 4th=13th place $800H1: Evan Valiere, Marcus Hickman, Myles Padaca (Haleiwa), Andrew King (Australia)
H2: Jamie Sterling, Jamie O’Brien, Dustin Barca (Kilauea, Kauai), Blair Stewart (New Zealand) injured in 4th round
H3: Joel Centeio, Kainoa McGee, Jason Bogle (Kailua), Josh Fuller (Australia)
H4: Bruce Irons, Mike Todd, Damon Harvey (Australia), Shawn Sutton (Ewa)

Round 4:

3rd=17th place $700; 4th=25th place $600
H1: Andrew King, Myles Padaca, Nathan Carroll (Haleiwa), Love Hodel (Haleiwa)
H2: Evan Valiere, Marcus Hickman, Aaron Fredette (Haleiwa), Fred Patacchia (Haleiwa)
H3: Jamie O’Brien, Dustin Barca, Jesse Merle-Jones (Kilauea, Kauai), Tamayo Perry (Haleiwa)
H4: Jamie Sterling, Blair Stewart, Kahea Hart (Haleiwa), Chris Ward (San Clemente, CA)
H5: Jason Bogle, Kainoa McGee,  Che Stang (Carlsbad, CA), Randall Paulson (Waipahu)
H6: Josh Fuller, Joel Centeio, Mikala Jones (Haleiwa), Jay Thompson (Australia)
H7: Bruce Irons, Shawn Sutton, Derek Ho (Haleiwa), Chaz Akers (Cardiff, CA)
H8: Mike Todd, Damon Harvey, Makua Rothman (Haleiwa), Kaipo Jaquias (Waipahu)