O'Brien Wins ASP WQS 5-Star Volcom Pipeline Pro

PIPELINE, Oahu/Hawaii  - Prayers, plundered surfboards and Pipeline perfection were the order of the final day of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 5-Star Volcom Pipeline Pro, and local boy Jamie O’Brien avoided the drama to walk away with the win. O’Brien, 26, clinched his third Pipeline Pro title today to take home $16,000 and 2,000 ASP WQS ratings points. Surf for the final day was in the range of 10-15-foot wave face heights.

Australian pair Anthony Walsh and Mark Mathews were second and third respectively in the final, both breaking surfboards and forced to swim to the beach during the 45-minute bout. Fourth place was Hawaii’s Danny Fuller, who posted the day’s only perfect 10 during his semi-final heat but was unable to exit several deep tubes in the final that might have scored the same.

Two high scores - 8.77 and 8.23 - sealed the deal for O’Brien, giving him a two-wave total of 17.0 out of a maximum 20.

The highest scoring ride in the final actually belonged to Mathews, who was runner-up to O’Brien here at this same event back in 2007. Despite a horrible start to the heat, Mathews regrouped on a backup board and ended up splitting a peak with O’Brien on the best wave of the final. Mathews opted for the Backdoor, O’Brien took Pipe. Mathews’ was a super deep and long barrel, while O’Brien’s looked bigger but didn’t travel as far. Mathews was right back in the game with a 9.57 after that, but never managed to secure the second score he needed of 7.43, counting a 4.57 in its place.

"I thought I had a good wave and then I heard his score!" said Jamie, of the near-perfect score Mathews got going right on the wave they split.

"I love Pipeline. I kind of talk to it out there. You might think I’m crazy, but I just started praying it was going to go flat in the end, and Mark looks and me and says, ’I bet you’re praying that it’s going flat’, and I was like, yeah! (Laughs.)

"Mark was in the running. I’ve surfed with him out here before, he’s a great surfer, he was ripping. But it’s kind of funny, every time you think you have it, you don’t have it. I didn’t think I had it even with 10 seconds (to go).

"It’s my passion, year in and your out here, I just like surfing this wave. My goal is to win as many Pipe contests as I can and there’s only a few chances every year. I got one more, so I’m stoked."

Mathews felt deserted by the ocean that had answered Jamie’s prayers and failed to produced any more quality rides.

"I was so disappointed," said Mathews. "After I got that 9.5 I thought for sure I could get this. It was only a (7.43) I needed and there were plenty of them at the start of the heat. I still had 10 minutes by the time I got out the back, but nothing came through. The waves just went flat.

"I had a shocking start to the heat. I was getting smashed. I lost my board, took a couple of bad waves, got washed in a couple of times. But I knew that I was always in there. It only takes one wave to get you back in the heat and I got it, but I just needed one more little one and it didn’t come through.

"From here, I’m just going to chase big waves. We’re shooting a documentary on me and one of my best mates, Richie Vass, and I’d just like to do enough WQS events so I can get into the Triple Crown, which is my favorite competition."

Second placed Anthony Walsh shared Mathews’ disappointment. With scores of 7.5 and 7.37, it was all about the one that got away: the biggest wave of the final that Walsh took a gamble on but lost, getting clipped in the barrel, and then breaking his board.

"I knew I was probably only going to get one chance and I got that really good one," said Walsh. "It looked like it was going to be a short barrel so I had to really wait as long as I could at the bottom (of the wave after takeoff) to get as deep as I could and get a big score. Either way, it was a 50/50 and it didn’t pay off, but second’s still really good and I’m stoked.

"I was definitely hoping for first because an international first place was a spot into the Pipe Masters, so second place doesn’t cut it. But still, to get second to Jamie O’Brien, he’s the best guy out here, so I’m happy with that. He just knows the wave so well. He knows were to sit and today he showed it. He got those two Backdoor ones that actually didn’t look like much, and he got the scores.

"I don’t really do the WQS but 1500 points is kind of a scorer, so I’ve got to think about maybe doing a few events. The Australian leg’s coming up and there’s some good 6 star events there. I’ll see how I go in them and make a call from there."

Along with the final placings, the perpetual Todd Chesser Memorial Award was presented today, awarded to Pipeline charger, North Shore lifeguard, and perennial goodwill ambassador David Wassel. Wassel certainly charged in this event, narrowly losing in the quarter finals.

"This award is for the surfer who charges from the heart and embodies great spirit," said Jeannie Chesser, Todd’s mom, during a moving presentation. "And that’s Dave Wassel."

The Cinderella story of North Carolina’s Brett Barley ended in the semi-finals, but he departs Pipeline with the satisfaction of having earned the highest heat score of the entire competition: 19.67 out of 20 in round 2. Barley lost to Mathews, Fuller, and Kiron Jabour (Hawaii) in the second semi-final today to place equal 7th overall.

"I’ve come this far and it’s only the first Pipe contest I’ve ever done, so I’ve got many more," said Barley. "I’m just stoked to make it this far. It’s been good, no hard feelings, I’m not bummed at all.

The highlight? "My first heat, on the first wave of a contest I’ve never done (before) and I got a 10... I’m still over the top about that. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. To end up with the highest heat score at a Pipe contest, that definitely feels good and I’m happy.

The Volcom Pipeline Pro was a super North Shore success story. Big, challenging surf over all four days of competition more than a couple of days of true Pipe perfection world class rides and nightmarish wipeouts and 27 broken surfboards that were a symbol of total commitment and grandiose entertainment.