Young Gold Coaster, Liam O’Brien, has been making a name for himself of late. Of course, those who have watched him mature over the past few years aren’t surprised, but he is a bit of a fresh face on the international surf scene. Billy Lee-Pope put together this clip of Liam in and around home base, as well as in some solid surf in Hawaii this past winter. Those couple of Off the Wall pits are nothing to scoff at.
Groomed surfing the points of the ‘Goldy, Liam has begun to display the smooth power of some of the local crew. It also looks like he’s added a solid air game to the repertoire. With some solid QS results to date, perhaps there is a qualification to the big leagues on the horizon if we ever get back to normal again.
We sent over a few questions to see what the young man has cooking these days, how he’s taking the lockdown, and what he most looks forward to once we get past this madness.
What Youth: Born and raised In Queensland?
Liam O’Brien: Born and raised in Queensland for the most part. Except for between the ages of about 5 and 9 where I lived in Melbourne for a couple of years, and then a couple more years south of there. But after that mildly peripatetic phase, I’ve just been here on the Gold Coast.
Editors note: Don’t feel bad, we also had to Google peripatetic! “Traveling from place to place, in particular, working or based in various places for relatively short periods”.
WY: Any first surf memories to share?
LOB: I can vaguely remember catching little whitewash waves in Surfers Paradise, haha and then shitting myself when I dared to venture out the back.
WY: Obviously there has been a parade of great talent out of the Gold Coast, who were your first influences and then who maybe came a bit later?
LOB: I’ve been apart of the Burleigh Boardriders for a long time now so Bottle (Jay Thompson) has always been a big influence. There’s a heap of other older guys there who I’ve grown up watching too. Everyone that surfs the point a lot seems to have a pretty unique style and I’ve always enjoyed watching and learning. Like probably everyone my age I used to obsess over Dane Reynolds and Marine Layer Productions as well. He’s probably still my favourite surfer to this day.
WY: We noticed somewhere you riding one of Darren’s board (DHD), are you a “one shaper” guy or have you tried some others?
LOB: I’ve tried some other boards in the past but I’ve worked with Darren for quite a while now and pretty well strictly ride his boards. It’s been really cool working with him and being able to gradually refine boards over time. We’ve got a pretty good formula now but every now and then I’ll jump on something else to mix things up.
WY: Been rocking the Billabong logo as well?
LOB: Yep, been riding for Billabong for ages now haha. They’ve always looked after me, it’s been a good relationship.
WY: Any other sponsor shout out’s?
WY: Cool. Solid brands. Let’s change subjects. Obviously, you were so close to qualifying for the CT in 2019, but the flip side being that you had a pretty solid free surfing season on the North Shore. How important to you is making a name for yourself in Hawaii?
LOB: Hawaii is a pretty intimidating place. The whole setup is as imposing as it is scary. There’s nowhere else like it really so to get to spend time there is pretty special. Billabong has a house right in front of OTW too which is pretty fucken sick. Obviously my focus last year was on the comps but I didn’t really do that well so I tried to make the most of being in Hawaii by surfing heaps and filming. I didn’t really have any intentions of making a name for myself or anything. I just wanted to try and get some good waves. It’d be pretty cool to ascend the pecking order and be respected there but I don’t think I’ll ever make too much of an inroad on that front. I’m happy just getting some scraps where I can haha.
WY: You got off to a fast start this year with three solid QS results, then the COVID lockdown. I’m sure it was a disappointment to get put on hold. How are you dealing with that?
LOB: It does suck but everyone’s in the same boat. I haven’t been giving it too much thought really. I’ve just been enjoying being at home and not having to do too much.
WY: Last time we checked you could still surf in your area. Is it still open?
LOB: Yep we can still surf here. That’s about the only thing to do though so everyone that owns a surfboard on the Gold Coast has been surfing haha.
WY: This may be a random question, but are they allowing surf photogs and filmers on the beach or in the water?
LOB: That’s actually a good question. To my knowledge, you can shoot if it’s your profession but anything other than that I doubt would be allowed. It’s not too strict over here though. No ones getting shot at on the beach or anything haha.
WY: Australia has seen a lot of crazy stuff go down of late with the whole oil drilling thing in The Bight, those brutal fires, now the virus as well. Is there any political/social momentum within your generation that you see forming one way or another?
LOB: This year has been relentless in Australia. A lot of people have and continue to suffer as a result of the disasters we’ve faced. If anything I think it’s opened everyone’s eyes to how lucky we have been in the past. I’m not really too attuned to the political world but if anything it seems like everybody has been becoming a bit more pro-environment. It’s not a massive movement or anything but it seems like everyone (myself included) is becoming a little bit more aware.
WY: Once we get through this virus thing are there any travel destinations, outside of the QS stops, that you’d like to check out?
LOB: I’d love to explore more of Australia. It’s pretty sad, I’ve been to a fair few places now but never properly spent time in a number of places around here.
WY: Yep. There’s no place like home. Any last thoughts?
LOB: I hope everyone stays safe and that this virus passes soon. Thanks for the interview.
WY: Thank you.