Listen: Jamie O’Brien On How He Launched An Island Of Vloggers And What It Takes To Be A Pro Surfer In 2020

by stab February 15, 2020 2 min read

Before I sat down to interview Jamie O’Brien, I shared my fascination around what Jamie O’Brien has built with a few close friends. They weren’t feeling it. 

“Lemme know when you get someone else good on,” and the like. 

Once I explained that Jamie has pioneered a completely new career path in the surf world—one that appears to be the only way forward for non-competitors—they started to get it. 

So I’ll give you the same argument I gave them. Here’s why Jamie is impressive:

  • He’s the first iteration of the modern DIY pro freesurfer. ‘Freesurfer’ is a nonsensical word but it seems to make sense here for the non-contest guy who is also not reliant on sponsors. 
  • Before the interview, Jamie asked how much we were going to pay him. That was a first. And also impressive. There was no commercial agreement for this interview, however. 
  • Whether you like them or not, Jamie has inspired a new birth of surf vlogs. Hawaii is the ground zero of surf vlogs, all because of him. There’s Nate Florence, John Florence, the Smith Brothers, Koa Rothman, Raw Cut, Eli Olson, Kai Lenny and recently Mason Ho and Rory Pringle’s new Youtube channel. 
  • In the surf space, the size of Jamie’s Youtube audience is only beaten by the WSL.  

Jamie was a real pro to deal with. He set the time for the interview, showed up in a brand new GMC Sierra 10 minutes early, and was ready to share his insight. 

One thing I wasn’t able to ascertain in this interview was how this whole get-rich-from-Youtube works. For example, I checked Stab’s YouTube revenue before the interview. We netted the princely sum of $1888 for 1.5m views for the previous 30 days. I still can’t work out how these guys can fund this thing is they’re picking up $1.26 per 1000 views.   

Perhaps there’s a tier system, where videos over a certain number of views make more money per view than our sub-million releases. Or perhaps Youtube is used as a loss leader to bring in sponsors or sell your own merch. 

Whatever Jamie’s doing, it’s working. He’s a lot more than surfing’s Jackass.

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