Paddleboarding legend Jamie Mitchell and surf giant Quiksilver are planning a major new event in Southern California this August, with a strong emphasis on creating an innovative, energetic and exciting new race for both athletes and spectators alike, as well as offering a big prize purse that will no doubt attract many of the world’s best paddlers.
The event will see the return of the famous “JM Survivor Race” format, and is set for Southern California’s iconic Huntington Beach on Sunday, August 14th. The one-day event is yet to be officially announced but is apparently 100% locked in, so save the date.
Tentatively known as the ‘Quiksilver Waterman Swim/Paddle/SUP’ (though already being referring to as simply “Jamie’s Race” by top athletes), the event will see the JM Survivor Race as the headline act alongside open races and traditional lifeguard events.
And from everything I’m hearing, it sounds like this is shaping up to be one of the most interesting SUP races of the season…
There have been quite a few whispers among the ranks of top paddlers over the past couple of weeks, so I gave Jamie a call the other day to get the full story. While the official announcement won’t be out for another week or two, he was happy to share the basic outline.
The core of the event will be the Survivor Race, which Jamie debuted at the 2012 Waikiki Paddle Festival and which is still one of the most highly-rated formats within the elite paddling community. However the race in August will have a few significant tweaks to the original Survivor, in order to keep things fresh, challenging and, hopefully, even more entertaining than previous editions.
For the uninitiated, the “Survivor Race” is basically a knockout event that sees paddlers complete a series of one lap sprints around a course that goes in and out through the surf, with just a few minutes rest between each race. The slowest finishers on each lap are knocked out as the field is whittled down to a final. It’s short, sharp, and exciting, and it’s also extremely challenging for the competitors: Whoever wins needs to have a solid mix of fitness, skill and strategy.
Jamie won’t just be the face of the event though, he’ll also be very hands on, acting as race director and deciding both the final format and the the exact course. And he knows this part of the world very well — his long-time sponsor and close friends at Quickblade are based just around the corner, and he’s lived in the Huntington/Newport area in the past.
But the 10x Molokai 2 Oahu champ from Australia isn’t only looking to innovate out on the water; JM wants to create a more engaging and lively atmosphere for the fans on the beach, mentioning ideas such as a grandstand that would create a mini colosseum for the paddlers to run through at the start/end of each lap.
When I called JM the other day on his new home of Oahu, he was straight up in saying he wants to take this race “next level” by creating a format and beach atmosphere that set a new standard in excitement and engagement for the paddlers, fans, sponsors and media. With a lot of talk recently about the need to make SUP racing more appealing to outside fans and brands, and with “surf racing” generally accepted to be the most exciting version of our sport, this event could be a great step forward.
(There’s also something very interesting in the works as far as board classes are concerned, but I’ll save that for a follow up post later in the week…)
This event is also timed perfectly just one week before the Gorge Paddle Challenge in Hood River, Oregon, meaning the international athletes can hit the West Coast of America for two major races back-to-back. I’ve already chatted to a dozen of the top ranked paddlers about Jamie’s event while we’ve all been over here in Europe, and every single one has shown very strong interest.
Jamie, who won the 2009 Battle of the Paddle plus a couple of ISA gold medals to go with his ‘Decade of Dominance’ at Molokai, hasn’t been racing for the past couple of seasons – he’s been focused on starting a family, running a business and pursuing a big wave surfing career – however he’s always kept his finger on the pulse.
Apart from owning his own board brand, JM Paddleboards, the “Captain” has never been too far from the scene and has always talked of his desire to host a major SUP race that could help elevate the sport to a new level of excitement.
And by the sounds of it, this is going to be that event, so stay tuned or more details in the coming days and weeks.
Oh and what about prize money? With all the talk of innovative new race formats, the prize purse almost seems like an afterthought. But prize money is definitely a nice carrot, particularly for the international athletes that have to spend big just to get to the start line.
The final amount is yet to be decided, but with the strong backing of Quiksilver Waterman Collection (Jamie is a Quiksilver athlete), the prize purse will be at least $30,000, with the bulk of that on the JM Survivor Race (from what I’ve heard, the top guy will walk away with around $6,000). That’s mighty solid, and tentatively pegs it as the second or third most lucrative international event of the year.