Jamie Mitchell, 10-time champion of theMolokai to Oahu race, finished 2012 and ushered in 2013 in epic fashion. First came a giant session at Cortes Bank on December 22 and 23 that almost turned deadly when big wave master Greg Long was rushed to hospital after a brutal three-wave hold down (he recovered). Then Mitchell was off to catch a newly-awakened Peahi (Jaws) on Maui, which rumbled into life on New Year's Eve and provided two days of huge faces, fast rides and scary wipeouts.
Mitchell took time out from his hectic schedule – training with Kai Lenny, opening a new JM Paddleboards factory and store on Australia's Gold Coast and promoting his new documentary, Decade of Dominance – to answer five questions. —Phil White
SUP mag: What happened to Greg Long at Cortes Bank reminded people of how dangerous big wave surfing is. How do you prepare for riding waves like that?
JM: Physically, I stay tuned up all year and I try to eat clean. But it's mainly a mental game for me – being confident and believing I can read the ocean and be where I'll need to be. The ocean is never predictable and you can't control it, but I can go in feeling prepared and ready to go. For me, Cortes was the biggest wave I've surfed on an SUP, even though I could only pull the standup board out for a few waves when the wind died down enough. I pushed myself past what I thought was possible, so I'm happy.
SUP mag: What SUP technology is helping surfers when things go wrong?
JM: I think the inflatable vest is the biggest advancement in the history of the sport – it'll save a lot of lives and gives you some peace of mind. It can bring you to the surface if you're held under, but you also have to be mentally and physically prepared in case something malfunctions. You can't leave it all to the technology.
SUP mag: With 10 wins now in the Molokai to Oahu, how are you motivating yourself to compete in 2013?
JM: I used to train for that race for at least three months each year – it was my focus. Now I want to be more flexible, to chase more waves in Mexico, Fiji and Tahiti. I'd like to get some really big barrels. I also want to do well at the Battle of the Paddle in California, enter some other races. And I'm excited about the standup and prone boards we're making at JM Paddleboards.
SUP mag: How has your recent training been going in California and Hawaii?
JM: Great. You have all these young guys coming up – Connor, Kai, Slater – and they're going faster and faster in races. It's fun to compete with them and see what I've got, to push my own limits. They're really advancing board design too, using these light, fast, super-narrow boards – 23 or 24 inches wide. And then you have Jim Terrell working on tapered shafts and different handles.
SUP mag: What did you enjoy most about filming Decade of Dominance?
JM: A couple of things. It was nice to put paddling in the spotlight, and to showcase Molokai to Oahu. It's probably the best known SUP and prone race and I felt we got into what it's really about, why it's so special. Also, I got an e-mail from a guy this morning who'd watched the film last night and said it motivated him to go on a run at 10 pm. It's an honor to be able to inspire people like that.
Check out Jamie analyzing his Fijian bomb in our flipbook.