“Waterman” is a surfing related term popularised in Hawaii and is used to describe only the most talented and knowledged of practitioners. Typically, a waterman either dives, swims, surfs, sails, paddles or fishes the sea. A waterman is always top of his class in at least two of these fields.
The Gold Coast’s Jamie Mitchell is a true Waterman.
He is an accomplished big and small wave surfer, tow-in surfing exponent, stand-up paddle boarder, professional lifeguard and the undisputed King of the World when it comes to open ocean long distance paddling.
At the top of Jamie’s remarkable list of achievements is his unprecedented eight consecutive Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race wins.
The annual race is considered the world championship of paddle boarding and requires paddlers to traverse one of the roughest stretches of water in the world – the 32 mile wide Ka’iwi channel stretching between the North Shore of Molokai, Hawaii to the South Shore of Oahu.
Paddlers are subject to completely unpredictable currents and open-ocean swells sometimes reaching up to 30-feet. The ultimate test of endurance, the race challenges a participant’s surfing skills and ocean navigation skills.Jamie’s sixth win in 2007 remains the fastest finish in the race’s history: 4 hours, 48 minutes, 23 seconds.
In 2002, Jamie also claimed the first of six consecutive US Paddleboarding Championships, proving that while he may have honed his skills on Queensland’s coast, he has certainly made his mark in America.
In 2007, a giant beast of a wave Jamie rode at Todos Santos, Mexico earned him a nomination into Billabong’s annual XXL Big Wave awards. It was quite an honour. From hundreds of video and photographic entries, just five were nominated in the “Monster Paddle In” category, proving once again Jamie’s arms – and almost certainly, his man-sized heart - are among his greatest assets.
Surfer Magazine in the USA suggested the session was possibly the heaviest paddle sesh ever, which saw Jamie and fellow Quiksilver team rider Mark Healey take some of the worst wipe-outs of their lives and get caught inside numerous occasions.
Further though, it cemented Jamie’s place among the world’s elite big wave riding club, at least publicly. For many years, Jamie and his Hawaiian mates were members of their own unofficial “20-20” club. Open only to those who had paddled a minimum of 20 miles in the open ocean and readily rode waves exceeding 20 feet in size.
Jamie has since been invited to surf in the Mavericks Big Wave Contest (as an alternate in 2009), the Ku Ikaika Challenge, the world’s only stand-up paddle big wave invitational and the 2007 Peahi (Jaws) World Cup Tow-In Championships, Hawaii.
In Australia, Jamie works as a lifeguard at Burleigh Heads and runs the Jamie Mitchell School of Paddle and Surf along with business partner Jocelyn Kemp. The remainder of his time is divided between hang time with his girl, surfing on a completely diverse range of equipment (anything from a 5'10 fish to his 18ft paddleboard!) and of course his intense weekly training schedule.
“Molokai is my Everest,” explains Jamie.
"This race is important to me personally, financially, in every way … The feeling you get when you cross the line … I don’t get that from anything else. That's why nothing comes close to it.”