Return of the Survivor Race: Jamie Mitchell Speaks
Jamie Mitchell is a master of pushing sports to their limit: winning Molokai 2 Oahu an unprecedented and unbeatable 10 times, scratching into the biggest waves ever paddled into and now, reviving his survivor-style race format for The Waterman’s Festival, presented by the Quiksilver Waterman Collection. The event, to be held on August 14 at Huntington Beach, has a little something for everything, from lifeguards to swimmers, from the best standup paddlers in the world to first-timers, from prone paddlers to spectators. And there’s a $30,000 prize purse. Interested? We got Mitchell on the phone to get the scoop. —WT
How is everything going for the event?
It's good. It should be fun and it's purely about putting together a great event for the athletes, making them stoked and making the spectators stoked. Just running a great event with the goal of having everyone walk away with a smile on their face.
Break down the survivor race?
It's basically a knockout format. Each heat we knock out 10 people, with a three- to five-minute break until the next heat until we get it down to a final race of 10. This year there will be a little bit of a tweak with a points system. The first ones were successful but the top guys didn't have to expend much energy until the last race or two. The points mean they have to try to win every race and they can't just cruise through a race and get 6th or 7th in early heats. These guys are going to be drained and beaten up by the time they make it to the final race, there is no faking it or cruising through conserving energy. You have to try and win every race to try and win the overall day.
What about other events throughout the day?
This day is for a lot of people who like the water, like swimmers or triathletes, who have not seen a paddleboard race. We want to involve them and have them stay for the day, and potentially add new people to the sport. There will be a one-mile swim to kick it off, a five-mile age group SUP and prone race, a swimming survivor race, the SUP survivor race (men and women), the 10'6" (prone) survivor and finally a dash for cash.
Why did you pick Huntington Beach?
It's the middle of summer, it's a nice big beach, there’s plenty of parking and it's iconic. It's a good fit and hopefully there's a lot of foot traffic.
Why is it important to share your culture in Australia of lifesaving and racing here in the United States?
It's about the lifestyle, whether it's prone paddling or SUP or swimming. I grew up swimming and paddling and lifesaving for many years on the Gold Coast and I've seen lots of people cross over and try different sports. I think that's a great way to bring people together. I'm looking forward to having all the different athletes on the beach at one time and hopefully getting outside their comfort zone, maybe the standup paddlers try the swim or the (prone) 10' 6" or vice versa.
What's behind the open board class?
I grew up doing open water prone races and the unlimited was just that: you make the fastest board you want to get across the line first, no restrictions. Pretty simple. Some guys are smaller and want a 12'6" and some are bigger and want a 14'. I just really want the athletes to be comfortable.
Any confirmed athletes?
Connor Baxter, Casper Steinfath, Fernando Stalla, Michael Booth, Travis Grant and a many others have shown interest. I think we will see a lot of the top SUP guys there.
Hopefully everyone comes down to support event. SUP racing is in an interesting place right now and these specialty style events could be where the sport is heading at this time. It's exciting for the athletes and spectators.