Hawaiian surfer Jamie O’Brien was announced today as the big winner at the first-ever Billabong Freewave Challenge, capturing both First and Second Place in the Best Performance Ride category and collecting a whopping $14,444.43 for two waves’ work. O’Brien, a key proponent of “free-surfing” as performed outside of regular competitive formats and judging criteria, was voted number one by his peers for his “Rodeo Flip,” a backside aerial maneuver combining an inverted flip and a 360 degree turn with both hands grabbing the rails. That single ride earned a check for $9,999.99. O’Brien’s second place ride was a “Freak Out Turn” featuring a hard carve into a forward flip with a half twist. To view O’Brien’s rides and the rest of the Performance Nominees, click HERE .
O’Brien accepted his trophy and checks at his home overlooking the Pipeline break and said, “Free-surfing is one of the most important things about the North Shore. The contests don’t always have good waves and in the end people remember the tube or the year or the best maneuver of the year. It can happen any day or any second. This year the waves were not the best for a lot of the regular contests, but the winter goes on for months so there will always be epic moments in an event like the Freewave Challenge.”
O’Brien is looking forward to defending his Billabong Freewave Challenge crown.
“I think the Freewave Challenge can be the future for free surfing as more and more surfers get into it and post more and more video clips,” added O’Brien. “I think it could be a monster, we could raise some animals. It can inspire surfers to go to the next level. I don’t want to wiggle to the beach, I want to go off — and I think there are a lot of guys who feel the same way.”
Winning the Best Tube Ride Award was Timmy Reyes of Huntington Beach, California for what was widely regarded as the wave of the year on the North Shore of Oahu. Reyes waited three hours on one of the best days of the winter for the perfect barrel to come to him, and it paid off in glorious fashion. Reyes was awarded a check for $5,555.55 for his great escape.
“There are a lot of good surfers out there who don’t fit into the existing pro tour format,” said Reyes, “and the Freewave Challenge is the perfect way to really show the best surfing going on in the world. I am so stoked to have had the best tube of the winter. It’s something that I have imagined since I was a little kid. To have this happen is incredible to me.”
Runner-up in for Best Tube was North Shore local Garrett McNamara who tempted fate with one of the first-ever attempts to ride a beach-boy style Stand Up Paddle Board at the legendary Banzai Pipeline. Stroking the 12-foot board into a set wave with an oar, McNamara avoided a collision with his brother Liam and went on to navigate precisely through a thick backside barrel and emerge successfully while still clutching the paddle. To see Reyes, McNamara and the rest of the Best Tube Ride Nominees, click HERE .
Top videographers on the North Shore were also acknowledged for capturing the critical moments of the big wave season on tape. O’Brien’s Rodeo was shot by Pete Frieden & Graham Nash (video prize: $1500) and O’Brien’s Freak Out Turn was captured by Kendall O’Brien. The Reyes tube was shot from four angles by Pete Frieden, Tony Heff, Graham Nash & Marc Beaty/Surfline (video prize: $1000) and the McNamara SUP barrel was covered by Yasuo Maeda (video prize: $750).
The final rankings were decided through the votes of a panel including the entered surfers and videographers and select members of the surfing media after careful review of over 120 entered rides. The Billabong Freewave Challenge was open to all surfers and to any ride caught on video outside of a regular surfing competition during the prime season on the North Shore of Oahu from October through December.
To see all the finalist clips and all 120 entries from the North Shore winter, visit the event site at www.FreewaveChallenge.com and click on Video Hub .
With the successful completion of the first Freewave Challenge, the details of the next event are now being released. The next event will take place on the Mainland USA from May to September, and all surf breaks on the West, East and Gulf Coasts are eligible, as is any ride NOT taking place during a regular surfing competition. Precise details on the categories to be considered will be revealed in the next month.