Hometown: Gold Coast, Australia
Liam O’Brien is no joke. He’s no two-foot terry either (although you’ll see him out Snapper when it’s one foot and onshore, grovelling). This hard-working Goldy kid has a bright future, and it’s not just because he legitimately looks like Mark Richards’ son. He rips (check out his wave of the winter nomination for proof), has a hell work ethic, edits his own clips, has an IQ of a brain surgeon, and, above all, he just really loves surfing. From reading Don Quixote to scratching into a backdoor bomb, Liam does it all, so we caught up with the bright young talent to find out what makes him tick.
Why surfing? We heard you could be a doctor if you wanted.
l don’t know about that… Surfing is just fun and I’m not very good at anything else.
Do you make your own surf edits?
I do, but with help from some skilled friends. I thoroughly enjoy editing and the process of bringing an idea to fruition. I’m also pretty obstinate in the way I want my videos to look, which makes it difficult for me to hand over the editing reins to somebody else. That being said, my skills are in many ways inept, which make getting help necessary. Billy Lee Pope and Beren Hall are my go-to in those cases; they’re experts and always bring my shoddy work into line.
Who are three guys you’d want to be in an edit with, and why?
I’d like to make a clip featuring the younger, underground generation in Aus at the moment. Contrary to popular belief, I still think there’s a lot of unnoticed talent. Obviously, the surf industry is in a rough place, which makes it difficult to finance a clip, but with a bit of a DIY attitude I think something could be pulled off. A few friends in the Sydney area already did something similar with their clip, Fairy. I was a huge fan of the initiative and I think there’s a lot more to be done in that space. If I have to limit the feature list to just three, I’ll be biased and say Toby Mossop, Hinata Aizawa and Morgan Cibilic, who are good friends and whose surfing I admire. There are a lot more people I’d love to feature though.
What are you reading, watching or doing at the moment that’s inspiring you?
I just finished reading William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days, which is a pretty incredible memoir. I’m moving onto Don Quixote by Cervantes now. It looks like it might keep me occupied for a while. I’ve been playing a bit of PS4 lately as well… It’s not all that inspiring or useful, but it’s fun.
What do you think about being compared to the wounded gull, aka, Mark Richards?
I have no complaints being compared to MR. He’s a legend of the sport. I doubt I’m worthy of the comparison, but I’ll take it.
Do you think it’s because you look like his son, or because you’re touted to be a 4 x World Champ?
I’m definitely not touted as the next 4x World Champ, so I’d say the comparisons drawn would be appearance-based (laughs).
Is that your goal, to become a World Champ?
It’s a dream, but I’ve got a fair way to go to get there. Hopefully I can have a crack one day.
What are some other goals you’ve got, surfing or otherwise?
Surfing-wise, I’d love to qualify. That’s a pretty obvious goal for someone surfing on the QS though. Beyond that, I want to make a few more solo clips, plus something similar to what I mentioned before in terms of a bigger project. I want to continue to progress my surfing skills, but I also want to keep editing and hopefully improve in that sphere as well. With the current interlude in the QS, I’m considering starting uni too, but that might be a bit ambitious.
What’s going to happen in the next five years in surfing?
I have no idea. Things will definitely change, but in what way, I’m not sure. Probably just a few more wave pools and mind-bending airs. The WSL just announced a pretty dramatic adjustment to both the QS and CT, that’s probably the biggest shake-up in the near future. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Again, I have no idea. Ideally, I would be making a living out of competitive surfing, but that’s no guarantee. Who knows, maybe surfing won’t be a thing in five years. I sure hope it is though, I can’t see myself doing much else.