Australian Jaime Mitchell is the reigning eight time champ of the grueling Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race heldevery July. Known in elite paddleboard circles for his prone paddling prowess, Mitchell recently took his paddling act to his feet at Doheny Beach, California for Rainbow Sandals’ 2nd Annual Battle of the Paddle, the world’s largest Stand Up Paddle (SUP) race. “Mitchell is more suited for the races in Hawai’i than in California”, “…a fast prone paddler, but he won’t hang with the top guys in stand up”, was the online chatter posted on message boards before October 3rd, 2009. Accused of being a one- dimensional athlete, Mitchell surprised all with a stunning win, a full 4 minutes and 39 seconds ahead of waterman Chuck Patterson’s winning time at the previous year’s event. The morning after Mitchell’s glorious victory, critics ate their words and Wheaties in stunned silence. Mitchell’s magic formula: sheer athletic ability and a unique SUP race board designed with similar features to his Molokai to Oahu prone race board.
For stand up paddling’s elite, the Battle of the Paddle represents the world’s largest and most competitive race. A “motocross” style course has participants zig- zagging in and out of the breaking surf. It’s a challenge that tests the endurance and surfing skills of the world’s best watermen and women. Athletes fly in from around the world to compete for the coveted Battle of the Paddle crown and a cash purse of $25,000.
Doheny Beach resembled a NASCAR event last Saturday morning with dozens of vendors showing off their latest speed machines. With its festive atmosphere and a jubilant throng of onlookers staking out viewing spots on the sand, the salt air was buzzing with anticipation. As the sun rose that morning, no one could have anticipated what was in store. Mitchell had never competed in a stand up paddle race before. Could the success he’s enjoyed in traditional “prone” paddle races be his in an SUP event? Dozens of rivals were there to take on the challenge. The sudden popularity of SUP in the fitness, kayaking and surf worlds has fueled fierce competition amongst athletes, board designers and shapers. Every innovator, huckster, fitness guru and experienced board and boat builder is climbing on the SUP bandwagon.
With a building swell and increasing onshore winds, this year’s race was to be far more challenging than the last. Mid-way into the first of four laps, and nearing the lead, Mitchell’s hopes were nearly dashed when he fell, loosing his board. Caught in white water, the board arrived almost back to shore without him. Swimming to recover it, Mitchell got back on course. The mishap had cost him approximately eight places. Now in tenth place, he summoned his inner warrior to make up the lost time. When he overtook young phenom Slater Trout and Andrew Logreco to take the lead with a nice margin, the winner was clearly “MITCHO!”, a first time BOP competitor. “After the wipeout at the south buoy, I just put my head down and told myself that I wasn’t going to make any more mistakes” commented Mitchell. Indeed, his remaining three laps were aided by surf skills honed in Australia and Hawai’i. Mitchell, perfectly positioned, surfed several set waves which extended his lead. Jamie completed the 5 mile course with a record time of 1:07:45. The ever so humble “Mitcho” gave credit for his win to his board designers, and added, “I’ve been busy traveling and working with my surf school back home so we didn’t really have much time to train before coming out to California.” Just days prior to the Battle of the Paddle, Mitchell and a tight knit crew of fellow Aussies were up in San Francisco for the Hennessey International Paddleboarding Championships. Mitchell was there to defend his title in the Unlimited (prone paddle) Class. Victory was his when he won that race with more than a three minute lead.
By about 2:30 in the afternoon last Saturday, Mitcho’s lead at Doheny had left little doubt who’s board was the fastest! Mitchell’s unconventional SUP board has a unique concave bottom, chine rails and consistent thickness flow from nose to tail. A stark contrast to the majority of racing boards in the water, Mitchell’s board was designed by Lahui Kai, the Australian partnership of Adrian Birse and Mick Di Betta. The “Mitcho”, Jamie Mitchell’s 12’6″ racing SUP model will be manufactured by Surftech, the innovative Santa Cruz, California company known for bringing exclusive shapes by elite designers to market. Surftech’s unique proprietary construction makes their boards both “waterproof” due to their fused-cell cores and ultra- durable. Fast, stable and light, the 12’6″ Mitcho is a great board for racing or cruising . It’s a solid and proven performer, even in windy, bumpy conditions. Look for Surftech’s 12’6″ Mitcho model in stores worldwide by Spring 2010.