Without really trying, Jamie O’Brien has carved himself a niche as one of the most progressive surfers of the modern generation. Whilst his peers constantly search for ways to add extra degrees of rotation to their latest front-side air’s, JOB sets himself apart by moving in a different direction. What usually starts as a means of attempting to squash the boredom of life on the North Shore often ends in compelling entertainment. Be it charging heavy waves on a pink foamy, or setting himself on fire deep inside a Tahitian barrel, his vision for pushing the boundaries of the conventional cannot be labelled as anything other than extraordinary.
Jamie’s latest quest for the unique sees him lighting up Pipe in an altogether different way. This time he is literally lighting up Pipe. With the mother of all light cubes strapped to his board O’Brien darts around the face of the wave like a firefly, the most impressive shots reserved for when he tucks into the barrel and lights up the tube from within.
He does it all with a Lume Cube, a small, wireless, waterproof LED light not much bigger than an ice cube. The bluetooth controls on Lume Cubes allows a user to control adjustable flash and even brightness with a smartphone, but of course Jamie is simply using the thing to light up each wave. Considering his track record for doing things a little different, and the fact that he has an entire web series dedicated to the concept, O’Brien seems like a natural fit for the new photo/video accessory.
Whether surfing with a light strapped to your board à la Jamie, or deciding to rely on the faintest of glow from the moon, riding waves at night adds another dimension to surfing. It amplifies the senses and connects you to the ocean more than is ever possible during the daylight hours. Just paddling out in the dark is an experience. In daylight hours approaching waves are analyzed visually, the briefest of glances telling you everything you need to know about the oncoming mass of water. Yet in the absence of light, the process calls on normally underutilized senses. The rushing sound of water announces the arrival of a broken wave, giving clues (but not definitive answers) to its size. The shards of light that are emitted from the night sky gleam briefly on the tips of the waves, outlining silhouettes, and again offering some clue to structure of the groundswell. And in the dark everything seems to move so much more slowly; it’s as if the sea itself is feeling lethargic at the thought of having to continue the monotony of sending waves to shore. A romantic notion.
Deciding how far out to sit is a challenge. Approaching sets present themselves as gloomy bumps on the horizon. Feeling surges of water pass underneath your board is as effective a way of gauging the approaching swell as anything your eyes will tell you. Your whole body is tensed in anticipation in a way that doesn’t happen during the day, senses on high alert, ready to act swiftly on the slightest change in conditions.
When a wave does arrive, turning, paddling and jumping to your feet is all an act of muscle memory. Instinct kicks in. The bottom turn happens without thinking; the challenge is to thread your board through the black face of the wave’s section, keeping ahead of the charging white-water approaching somewhere over your shoulder. And then you kick out. Diving into the darkness. The temperature of the water catching you by surprise as you decide whether to turn for the safety of the shore or paddle back out for more of the same.
Light cube or moonlight. Pipeline or your faithful old beach break. Night surfing is definitely something to be experienced at least once in a while.