Jamie O’Brien surfs Teahupo’o while lit on fire

Jamie O'Brien surfs Teahupo'o while lit on fire. Photo: Red Bull Photo Pool
Jamie O’Brien surfs Teahupo’o while lit on fire. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Surfing star Jamie O’Brien came across a hot idea when his fans were asked for suggestions on what he should do next on “Who Is JOB 5.0,” a Web series in which the 32-year-old surfer pushes the envelope.

“They said, ‘It would be cool if you lit yourself on fire,’ and I thought, might as well,” O’Brien said. “So I went into Red Bull [the Web series producer] and I said ‘Hey, I want to light myself on fire and go into a barrel at Teahupo’o,’ and they looked at me like are you for real?”

Turns out, yes, Jamie O’Brien was for real.

After a year of preparation, O’Brien was doused with lighter fluid, lit on fire, towed out into the surf at Teahupo’o in Tahiti, and then caught a wave in what he described as “the biggest adrenalin rush of my life.”

“I caught the best wave of my life today,” O’Brien told Red Bull afterward. “It was a dream wave, and I was on fire. It was the biggest adrenalin rush of my life. Everything went super smooth. Yesterday, during a test I burned a quarter of my eyelash and eyebrow, but it was really cool.

“There was a lot of build-up and yesterday we had a few difficulties, but today we just went for it and next thing you know I was in the barrel, I was on fire and flames were wrapping everywhere. It was really cool.”

Jamie O'Brien gets doused with lighter fluid. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
Jamie O’Brien gets doused with lighter fluid. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
Jamie O'Brien, engulfed in flames, is pulled out to surf Teahupo'o. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
Jamie O’Brien, engulfed in flames, is pulled out to surf Teahupo’o. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

O’Brien pulled off the stunt Wednesday, but not without plenty of planning, led by Hollywood stunt coordinator Riley Harper with a team of 25 people.

Harper, O’Brien and the team performed two fire safety tests in California and another in Hawaii to make sure the idea was feasible, and to get O’Brien comfortable with being on fire.

Body Glove made a custom wetsuit for O’Brien with all the life-saving floatation devices moved to the front away from the fire. Several combinations of fire protection layers were tested.

“Riley’s crewmembers were telling me how some folks panic, and you never know how you’ll react. People think they’ll be fine then they get lit on fire and they lose it,” O’Brien explained to Red Bull. “I was like, God I hope that doesn’t happen to me. All the anticipation and worry of whether you’ll get burned, the build-up was like … beyond … I can’t even put it into words.”

Jamie O'Brien said "the whole barrel lights up fluorescent orange." Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
Jamie O’Brien said “the whole barrel lights up fluorescent orange.” Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

O’Brien grew up near the Pipeline in Hawaii and has experienced surfing barrels all over the world. What was it like surfing in a barrel at the famed Teahupo’o while lit on fire?

“The whole barrel lights up fluorescent orange,” he told Red Bull. “It’s this really crazy feeling. Usually in the barrel everything slows down and you don’t hear anything, but the noise of a flame in the barrel is incredible. You can’t really describe it. And I had this flame just wrapping around my head, which was pretty insane, something totally different than anything I’ve ever done before.”

The episode of “Who Is JOB 5.0” with the fiery surfing at Teahupo’o is set for Aug. 7.

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