Jamie Mitchell: Beyond the Boards

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Jamie Mitchell carries a pair of boards up the beach at the 2014 Stand Up for Clean Water event in Malibu, CA. Photo: OnIt Pro

Jamie Mitchell

I spied Jamie sitting relaxed beneath an umbrella on the upper left side of the hill overlooking the stage at the Battle of the Paddle – Salt Creek.  “It looks like you’ve got yourself a box seat,” I said.  “It’s alright, yeah?” he replied with a characteristic smile beaming across his face.  Indicative of a career as a professional ocean athlete, Jamie is most widely known for his accomplishments in sports: 10x Molokai to Oahu paddleboard champion, Battle of the Paddle champion, accomplished big wave rider…the list goes on.  I asked him which achievement he is the most proud of.  “Hopefully it is still ahead of me and I can surprise myself,” he replied.

Born in Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, Australia, Jamie Mitchell grew up dreaming of a career as a professional athlete.  “When I was younger, it didn’t matter what it was as long as it was something to do with sport,” he told me.  “I played lots of football, I ran and swam competitively, as well as surf [ocean] life saving.”

Growing up on Australia’s East Coast, some might remark that it was a foregone conclusion Jamie Mitchell’s career would take him to the ocean.  Even so, life as a professional ocean athlete was not necessarily where the 37 year old thought he would be at this stage in his life.  “I never really thought there was an avenue to be a waterman,” he said.  “But Quiksilver offered a sponsorship to me in 2005 and from there I just tried to be as well rounded as I could and with SUP becoming more popular and a few more sponsors becoming involved with me, I was able to take it more serious and then take my big wave surfing more serious, as well and it just kept rolling from there…I guess the timing was right and I took a chance and went for my dream and so far I have been able to make it work.  It’s been hard at times, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Jamie Mitchell is widely known throughout the ocean sports community for being one of the most approachable and down to earth professional athletes around.  Social media posts routinely show the renowned waterman hamming it up with local paddlers and sharing his knowledge with athletes young and old.  “I love the feeling of being immersed in nature, especially the ocean when it is constantly changing,” he said.  “I love the fact that you can get away and be by yourself and have that connection with Mother Nature…and also the challenge of what the ocean can dish up, pushing my limits and fears to what I think is possible.”

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His classy, engaging demeanor combined with his genuine desire to help others has earned him a well deserved reputation as one of ocean sport’s best.

“Whenever Jamie enters a room, to witness his amazingly kind presence…with everyone in it.  He has a real and raw love for ocean sports and sharing his travels through life,” said Elizabeth Terrell, VP of Operations at Quickblade Paddles.

And what a journey it has been so far, from his decade of dominance racing prone paddleboards to a stand out stand up paddler and big wave rider.  Jamie is one of those unique individuals who are able to constantly reinvent themselves as a top athlete in a range of ocean sports by holding onto an enduring passion and never ending drive to excel through hard work and perseverance.  “I’m most impressed with his awareness in the water,” said his friend Dave Kalama, who shared a Molokai win with Jamie – Kalama on a stand up and Jamie on a prone paddleboard.  “I admire people that are aware of everything going on around them, I mean everything, and he can sense people’s energy.”

Jim Terrell, four time Olympian and founder of Quickblade Paddles told me, “Jamie is extremely talented and has a work ethic to match.  I’ve always said that ‘good things happen to those who work the hardest’ and it’s not surprising to see good things come his way from time to time to prove my saying true.”

Jamie’s journey to the pinnacles of ocean sports lore first began with his well documented wins on a prone paddleboard, but it has been his achievements in the competitive arena of stand up paddling which have expanded his name recognition within the public domain.  Due to the niche market aspect of prone paddling, many discover his feats on a prone paddleboard only afterwards, much in the same way an author’s first best seller rekindles interest in their earlier works.  His on the water achievements have paved the way for numerous opportunities to further his career, yet it is his demeanor off the water that has empowered his strongest bonds – most notably with Quickblade Paddles.  “After I won my fourth Molokai to Oahu race in 2005, Quiksilver wanted to get me something for winning the race and they asked me what I wanted,” Jamie told me.  “I said I wanted to go to the Quickblade factory and get a paddle…So, I was taken to the factory to meet Jimmy for the first time and walked away with two beautiful new Quickblade Kanaha blades.”

Jamie is often featured in Quickblade’s promotional media, most recently by sharing his experience and drive as the narrator for the industry leader’s pre-Battle of the Paddle short film “Race Day”, depicting footage of the Quickblade Team preparing for the race.  I asked Jamie what his relationship with Quickblade Paddles means to him.

I left Australia three years ago, had just split with my then wife and I was in a very bad place mentally…They took me in, treated me like their own and just helped me through the toughest period of my life up to date.  They didn’t judge me, just loved me and supported me and I will forever love Jimmy, Lizzie, Sydney and Addie and the Quickblade Family that helped through those years.  Quickblade is not a sponsor for me, it is my family, my friends and I would do anything for the Terrell family.

When he is not competing, Jamie is somewhat of a fixture at surfing events such as the Quiksilver Pro in New York and on the Gold Coast back home in Australia where he has worked on the water patrol ensuring athletes’ safety during competition.  Off the water, he contributes his experience as a waterman and big name recognition by serving as an ambassador for Pipeline to a Cure and the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation.  “I’ve had a lot of fun with Jamie both on and off the water,” said Jim Terrell.  “But watching him on the mechanical bull here in Costa Mesa a few weeks ago while celebrating our team’s bowling victory [at a Pipeline for the Cure fundraiser] was right up there.”

Jamie’s current goal is to re-qualify for the ASP’s Big Wave Tour next year.  “I would love to be invited into the Eddie Aikau and Maverick’s Big Wave Invitational events and a few goals that I want to keep to myself for the time being,” he said.  SUP racers should remain on guard, however, as the 2009 Battle of the Paddle Champion is also looking forward to getting back into racing next year.  “I miss the competition and the training helps my all-around fitness so it is a win-win situation.”

The Battle of the Paddle – Salt Creek introduced a prone paddleboard race this year and I couldn’t help but ask the 10x Molokai to Oahu champion if his competitive prone paddling days were behind him.  “Never say never!” he replied with a grin and hearty laugh.

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