Currently sitting at No. 9 on the Challenger Series, Liam O'Brien is just days away from potentially qualifying for the Championship Tour here in Haleiwa. The top 12 surfers in the rankings will qualify, and while O'Brien within the bounds right now, anything could happen on the next run day.
But fortunately for O'Brien, he's been one of the standout surfers here, putting up big scores in the event, and dropping hammers during free surfs. Comfortable in any type of wave, especially a steep righthander like Haleiwa, O'Brien surfs this place with with fluidity and power, upping his chances at qualification. And with his new afro, he's resembling a young Mark Richards around the contest zone.
The field is stacked with incredible talent, but few have caught our eye like O'Brien. We wanted to hear this thoughts from inside the cutline.
WSL: So you're in a pretty good spot to make the Tour, that must be feeling pretty cool. What's going through your mind?
O'Brien: I'm feeling pretty good! These situations are always pretty nerve wracking, I'm just trying to do my best to not think about it too much and treat the event just like a normal one and do my best and try to put together some good heats. Hopefully that results in qualifying, but as you know everyone is really good at these comps so you never know what you're gonna get.
It's obviously the dream [to qualify] but it's just another event and another chance to learn a lot and get some cool experiences. If it happens or not I'm still stoked to be here and competing.
You already have some experience last year on the Championship Tour at Rottnest Island and the Surf Ranch, how does the Challenger Series compare to a CT?
There definitely was [pressure] because I had never done a CT before this year so getting the chance to do one was really cool. I was also very overwrought by it all so it was kind of tricky to stay in the right headspace and keep it all together. It just comes down to experience and getting your confidence at that next level.
It's kind of like when I started the equivalent of the Challenger Series, it was this big daunting task but now it's a little bit more routine and I know what to expect.
How's the equipment feeling at Haleiwa, what are you riding out here?
Yeah everything is feeling good, I've just been riding DHD's, the Ducksnuts model. In my heat I rode a 6'2 but I've also got a 6'1 and a 6'3 that feel pretty good. So far that's what I've been sticking to out there but it will be interesting to see what this next swell does and if I need to step up and get some bigger equipment.
Can you break down the wave at Haleiwa? It's notoriously challenging to surf but it looks like you're faring quite well out there.
It's almost like a giant rip bowl. There's a giant current constantly running from left to right if you're looking from the beach. The wave itself is really bowly, quite steep, and a really good fun wave. It's over reef as well so if you can figure out its nuances its a really fun wave to surf. And when [the swell] drops off, it turns into a completely different spot and there's a little left.
Next week you could be a part of the 2022 Championship Tour Rookie class. If you do qualify, what wave are you looking forward to surfing most?
I'm not too sure, I haven't really thought that far ahead [laughs]. It would be pretty cool to do a comp at Pipe though, it's always nice to get some waves out there. As you know it's quite challenging during the free surfs.
It's pretty special when you can get the lineup with just a couple other people out.
Any final thoughts you want to share with everyone?
I'm really grateful to be back in Hawaii, it's a really special place and it's where surfing's come from. There's a ton of amazing waves here. I'm really lucky and just trying to enjoy my time and the contest.
Next call for the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenger is 7:30 am local time. Keep it locked on WorldSurfLeague.com for updates.