As a lifelong surfer, my primary research interest is in sustainability issues related to surf and adventure tourism and its ability to contribute to community building in remote developing country contexts. I have published journal articles (with Dr. Jess Ponting) based on sustainable surf tourism in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and the Mentawai islands. I have also published widely in the area of the strategic leveraging of sport events for sustainable host community benefits. I serve on the Editorial Boards of two academic journals (Journal of Sport Management; and Journal of Sport and Tourism), and I am the Associate Editor of Sport Management Review. I have presented my work at over 20 international conferences and published numerous book chapters and articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. I am a Visiting Professor at the Center for Surf Research, San Diego State University, California; and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Plymouth Sustainability and Surfing Research Group, Plymouth University, UK.
- Abel, A. & O’Brien, D. (2014). Negotiating communities – sustainable cultural surf tourism. In, J. Ponting and G. Borne (Eds.), Sustainable stoke – Transitions to sustainability in the surfing world. Plymouth, UK: University of Plymouth Press (In Press).
- O’Brien, D. (2007). Points of leverage: Maximizing host community benefit from a regional surfing festival. European Sport Management Quarterly, 7(2), 141-165.
- O’Brien, D. & Eddie, I. (2013). Benchmarking global best practice: Innovation and leadership in surf city tourism. Report for Australian Federal Government Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, Tqual – Tourism Quality Projects; and Gold Coast Surf City, Incorporated.
- O’Brien, D., & Ponting, J., (2013). Sustainable surf tourism: A community centered approach in Papua New Guinea. Journal of Sport Management, 27, 158-172.
- Ponting, J. & O’Brien, D. (In Press). Regulating “Nirvana”: Sustainable surf tourism in a climate of increasing regulation. Sport Management Review. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.smr.2014.07.004
- Ponting, J. & O’Brien, D. (2014). Liberalizing Nirvana: An analysis of the consequences of common pool resource deregulation for the sustainability of Fiji’s surf tourism industry. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 22(3), 384-402.