The aim of this investigation was to experimentally examine the surface pressures and resulting forces on an individual sediment grain whose size is comparable to the scales of the turbulent channel flow in an effort to discern details of the flow/grain interaction. This was accomplished by measuring the pressure fluctuations on the surface of a coarse, fully exposed, spherical grain resting upon a bed of identical grains in open channel turbulent flow. This spherical particle was instrumented with low-range, high-frequency-response pressure transducers to measure the individual surface pressures simultaneously on its front, back, top and bottom. The local flow velocity was measured synchronously with a laser Doppler velocimeter. The flow and sediment are near threshold conditions for entrainment with the channel and particle Reynolds numbers varying between 31 000–39 000 and 330–440 respectively. The emphasis was on determining the characteristics of the flow field with the potential to dislodge a spherical grain under uniform flow conditions as well as in the wake of a circular cylinder placed spanwise across the flow in otherwise fully developed open channel flow. It is concluded that the streamwise velocity near the bed is most directly related to those force events (and associated individual surface pressure distributions) crucial for particle entrainment. The lift force was observed to momentarily reach values which can be consequential for particle stability, although it is poorly correlated with the fluctuating normal velocity component. Turbulence intensity near the bed, rather than being the causative factor for increased force fluctuations, was shown to be an indicator of changes in the average lift force experienced by the grain during the application of extreme drag forces, at least for this particular flow condition (the upstream, spanwise-mounted circular cylinder). This effect is known to alter the sediment transport rates significantly. The characteristics of the temporal durations of flow events about the local maxima in the stagnation pressure, drag and lift forces, using a conditional sampling method, revealed the prevalence of sweep-type near-bed flow events in generating favourable conditions for particle dislodgement, although the dominant feature is the positive streamwise velocity fluctuation, not the normal velocity component. The duration of such events was the highest in the fourth and first quadrants in the $u,w$ plane, inducing high impulses on the grain.