Jamie O’Brien has a tube addiction, despite having Pipeline in his backyard, his need to be slotted behind a heaving curtain of water is still left unsatiated. O’Brien doesn’t let the North Shore’s offseason stop him from getting barreled though, he’ll head to wherever big barrels can be found, and in the edit above, he finds plenty in Mainland Mexico. Curious about the difference between riding a big step-off tube versus paddling a Pipe bomb, SURFER called O’Brien, a man deeply experienced in both, to get his answer.
Does a step-off barrel at a big beachbreak feel the same as a Pipeline tube?
O’Brien: You know, the best way I can answer that is what I told Bruce Irons 10 years ago. I said 'Dude, are we the only people that get it?' Bruce and I are getting 12-foot barrels all summer long and these guys are just waiting for Pipe to start breaking again. I like doing step-offs, you're getting more barrel time and that's what's going to get you better. You've got the drops, you've got everything that it takes so you might as well just enjoy more time in the shade getting barreled. I'm a barrel rider. I travel because I love tube riding, it's all I want to do and I think it's the best thing on the planet earth.
Doing step-offs is better than surfing Pipeline. When I was 15 or 16 years-old, Kelly Slater asked me in the lineup at Pipe, 'If you could surf at night all by yourself at Pipeline, or if you could paddle like a jestski, what would you do?' I said,'Well, I would surf at night.' Slater said, 'I would paddle like a jetski.' I was like, 'damn,' but with step-offs—now we're paddling like jetskis.