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Surfers of the North Shore: Jamie Mitchell—World Class Paddler, Big Wave Surfer, and All-Around Waterman

In a place like Oahu’s North Shore, it’s normal to see professional athletes on a daily basis.

After all, this is the heart of the surf industry, ground zero for the big wave community, and one of the most celebrated surf zones on the planet. Sometimes it seems like every other person you meet here gets paid to surf, and it isn’t uncommon to bump into world champions while picking up a poke bowl at Foodland. But although world champs are a dime a dozen on the Seven-Mile Miracle, there’s one world champ that lives here who is incredibly unique.

Jamie Mitchell: A World Champ Like No Other

Originally from Australia, Jamie Mitchell spent most of his childhood in the water. He started in the Nippers program at a young age, and was soon winning just about every waterman-style event on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. He quickly discovered that he had a knack for paddling, and before long he had established himself as one of the world’s foremast prone paddlers. aaa

The ultimate paddling event has always been the Molokai to Oahu race across Kaiwi Channel, and the young Jamie knew that he’d have to tackle the M2O if he wanted to establish himself as the world’s preeminent paddler. After a few years of training, he finally made the pilgrimage to Molokai, where he won his first M2O in 2001, claiming the de facto world championship of paddling. Then he came back the next year, and won again. Then he did it again—and again and again until he had won the world’s biggest paddle race 10 years in a row!

Transition to Big Wave Surfing

By this time, Jamie was the undisputed king of prone paddling—unquestionably the best paddler in the world and one of the greatest watermen to ever live. But over the years, he had also spent a lot of his time surfing. After all, what good is it to have the world’s best paddle arms if you aren’t using them to get into waves? Around the time he won his 10th M2O, Jamie also began to dedicate himself to catching the biggest waves in the world. By this time, he had moved to Oahu’s North Shore, where he was in the midst of starting a family. He trained obsessively during the summer, surfed Waimea, Jaws, and the outer reefs during the winter, and chased every notable XL swell that popped up in places like Mavericks, Belharra, Puerto Escondido, and Nazare.

Jamie’s ability as a waterman soon saw him recognized as one of the best big wave surfers on the planet, and he quickly earned a spot on the Big Wave World Tour, where he competed for years. He was frequently ranked in the top 10 (or better) at the end of the season, and his best result was arguably his win at huge, 20- 25-foot Nazare in 2016.

Redefining Professional Big Wave Surfing 

The Big Wave Tour went through a number of changes over the years, and right around the time COVID-19 shut down travel, it was shut down for good by the WSL. This was a frustrating time for many big wave surfers, but it marked an important shift in Jamie’s life, as he realized that a career as a professional surfer didn’t last forever and that he needed to find creative ways to keep the dream alive and support his family. He began working behind the scenes with athletes, sponsors, and Surfline, creating a new professional big wave movement that ultimately came to be known as 20-Foot Plus. This is an online-format platform hosted by Surfline that emphasizes expression session-type events at the world’s best big-wave spots, during notable and historic XL swells.

Continuing to Push Boundaries

Jamie was quickly becoming instrumental in redefining what professional big wave surfing looked like—but at the same time he was also focused on keeping himself in top shape and continuing to chase the biggest waves on the planet. He branched out into other sports for the purposes of cross-training, competing in a half-Ironman and becoming a world-class SUP surfer and downwind foiler. And he continued to chase the biggest swells to the heaviest lineups in the world, ensuring that he never let himself slip or get off his game. Jamie remains a perennial invitee to The Eddie, and competed in the historic Eddie event in January 2023.

Between swells, trips, and helping build the future of big wave surfing, Jamie spends time on the North Shore with his lovely wife Cassie and their two young daughters, both of whom are quickly becoming passionate surfers themselves. At the same time, Jamie is providing clients with coaching and fitness motivation, as well as hosting surf and foil trips around the world. In May 2024, he will be leading a luxury foil retreat in Costa Rica, complete with jet ski tow services, ice bath, and an in-house chef.

Needless to say, Jamie is living the good life—and he’s sharing his passion with those around him, whether they are his family, friends, or clients. To learn more about Jamie and the exciting things he’s doing, check out https://jamiemitcho.com.

 

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