All along it was my mate Travis (Grant) who was to visit me up here in this antipodean northern outpost, the father-country from where many Aussies can track their heritages, either on account of free-will or on account Her Majesty’s pleasure. I’m not entirely sure which category Grant falls into, but when we both finally concluded that a better offer of racing in the Pyrenees contested a possible visit to the UK and the logistics involved were proving testing, he dumped me. I was inconsolable for a minute or two, but then within a few hours another equally dodgey Aussie character PMs me on FB and casually tells me the time is right for him to visit and what’s this Battle of the Thames London race all about?
With Jamie Mitchell’s switch from prone to stand up paddling, this iconic figure, who is without contest, the world’s best prone paddle boarder to have ever graced a board, he is now taking on a sport which is in some sense, even more global and competitive on account of the shear weight of numbers.
Jamie’s adjustment to SUP has been nothing short of a baptism of fire, not least of which has been the obvious expectation, but as Travis Grant recently expressed to me,
“Jamie is on a plane every other week and has little time to train. He’s having to rely primarily upon his sheer competitiveness, natural ability and years of racing knowledge to get him through. In this respect, he is a master as he has proven.”
That being the case, if he were to actually train to any great degree, you can assume he would be moving even quicker than he is now. This is a truly unique individual, who has is all. Big wave tow-in surfing, prone, outrigger and stand up paddle boarding, he is on balance, about as good as it gets.
Naturally, the idea of putting some workshops together became essential to his visit. In doing so, we sold out at our first venue with the BaySup crowd on the South Coast Bournemouth in about 2 days. Our other venue in Exmouth where Surf Lifesaving is prominent, they want to indulge him for his prone paddling knowledge with interest also in the SUP, while further to the West near Falmouth, though the focus was on SUP we’ve interest again from the Surf Lifesaving movement and the prone paddlers – and that makes perfect sense, it is after all, his greatest legacy and the crucible from where he was forged.
Central to Mitcho’s visit, we will be the screening of his movie ‘A Decade of Dominance’ shown at each venue and we’ve some interesting venues for this including one of the River Thames’ oldest sailing clubs, a fancy restaurant, a converted library which is now a pub and one of the oldest theatres in Exmouth where they still serve beer!
I’ve a box of over 60 of his DVDs sitting in my room and rather than watch it now, I’m waiting to watch it in-front of a larger audience. It will blow them away. We’ve agreed to swap my book for a copy of his movie, something he laughs about, being as my books have been around for years, but he’s never had anything to trade with me – now he has his own movie!
I don’t think we can really comprehend what this man has been through to have achieved what he has. One thing’s for sure, prone paddle boarding is about as tough as it gets, which is a reflection of his character and resolve to be the world’s best, yet he’s one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. At one time by daughter, when she was around 14, wanted to marry him, but now it’s too late.
The two and a half hour workshops are as much about learning, as they are about spending quality time with what amounts to a one of a kind. We’ve known each other for years. We’ve many mutual mates, which isn’t hard when you move in a certain circle between the Gold and Sunshine Coasts of Australia. My Best Man, Chris Maynard, used to be Jamie’s boss when he was a professional Lifeguard. I’ve raced with him in outrigger canoes and traveled to areas of the world such as Fiji and the Marquesas Islands.
Having interviewed him back in 2005 after winning his 3rd Moloka’i to Oahu prone paddle board Championship, I appreciate the sacrifices he has made on levels you may not consider, but which paradoxically stem from an involvement and dominance within a sport, which was not so mainstream as to offer untold riches as surfing might, but ultimately one which offered bone-deep respect amongst the toughest and most accomplished of waterman, who understand just how tough this branch of ocean paddling is. In some perverse sense, only now is he truly coming to the fore in being recognised beyond the inner-circle and few are more deserving of our respect.
Aussie athletes are a proud bunch, but by the same token, I know his mates will forever make make sure he keeps his head ‘pulled-in’ as they like to say, in true Aussie style so he will remain just one of the boys, who will never forget his roots, his pathway or those who contributed to part of the sum of the whole of what he ultimately achieved. But that’s a tough order when you’ve achieved what he has and so he mates might forgive him for enjoying his moment in time.
Throughout our road trip and series of workshops, I will be assisting with the workshops in covering the technical areas of paddling and my own personal insights into this maturing sport. As an added bonus to our trip SUPracer.com ‘Bossman’ Christopher Parker is joining us in what will be a hectic week, before heading off to mainland Europe for some heavy duty racing including the Lost Mills race in Germany.
Jamie Mitchell’s UK Tour, May 2013
Saturday May 18th: London, Battle of the Thames race followed by movie viewing
Sunday May 19th: Bournemouth, morning and afternoon workshops and evening movie
Monday May 20th: Falmouth, afternoon workshop and evening movie
Tuesday May 21st: Exmouth, afternoon workshops and evening movie
Steve West has very probably traveled more miles and facilitated more paddling related workshop, clinics and training courses than it’s possible for him to remember. Six years as joint National Coaching Director for the Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association with Chris Maynard and seven years as consultant to the South Pacific Games Squads of the Fiji Islands, he has run workshops the entire length and breadth of Australia, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and beyond. He’s run workshops with the likes of Jim Foti in Italy, ‘Woogie’ Marsh, Lisa Curry-Kenny and Jane Hall and raced along side team mates such as Travis Grant, Jamie Mitchell, Grant and Martin Kenny and many other world class paddlers including several female Olympians in mixed crews, including Shelley Oates-Wilding and Yanda Nossiter
A two time Master Mens Moloka’i Hoe Champion, he is not only a world class coach, and one time world class paddler, he is also world leading authority and a scholar of outrigger canoeing, whose books are housed in the University of Hawaii and the University of the South Pacific. With his interest having turned to SUP and with the release of his book - Stand Up Paddle, A Paddler’s Guide, it’s little wonder he’s back at the coal face spreading what he likes to call ‘Tribal dissemination of knowledge’.
For more information on Jamie’s UK trip go to: http://kanuculture.com/jamie-