And Jamie Mitchell makes me eat my words.
The time I met Jamie Mitchell…
He decided, last minute, to paddle his stand-up out to the reef pass instead of hopping a ride on the boat. Sure he had spent last night in agony with a busted eardrum from a thirty second hold down, but today was a new day and he may as well make the most of it.
His board was where he left it, leaning against one of the foundation posts of the Tahitian shack. And there was still ear blood mixed into the wax. He chuckled as he fished his paddle out of a pile of broken shortboards. The kids didn’t really know what to make of his gear but he didn’t let that phase him. The kids eventually become men and then they learn what’s what.
The boat arrived to thundering Teahupo’o and the surfers readied themselves for battle. A generally unkind surf journalist had somehow hitched a ride as well. He had no intention of paddling out, but had always wanted to watch the wave break. It was everything he imagined. Even more. And he stared at its grandeur with a slack jaw.
They had been on the shoulder for a mere ten minutes when the surf journalist went to light a cigarette. Facing the direction from which they just came, away from the wind, he saw a stand-up paddleboarder gliding across the horizon, toward them. “Look at that kook…” he said. The team manager, sitting next to him, didn’t respond. He knew that the “kook” could answer for himself. The surf journalist watched as he stroked past them with a smile and into the lineup. “His ear was so bad last night that he couldn’t sleep, but he didn’t want to disturb anyone so he waited until morning to get a ride to the hospital for antibiotics…” someone said. “He was packing closeouts over the reef just to do it…” someone else said. The surf journalist couldn’t take his eyes off of him. What was he doing out there with a busted eardrum on a stand-up paddleboard? He was asking for pain worse then death.
The set had been working its way toward Teahupo’o’s reef for two days. What started as an open ocean storm, furious and wild, and organized itself into straight lines that only needed reef, or rock, or shore to stand up and detonate. And it was here. The stand-up paddleboarder saw it first and paddled beyond the surfing pack. They hooted him as he went by. The surf journalist on the boat could not believe what he was seeing. What was this mad man doing? Why? His paddle dipped once, twice, three times. Shoulder muscles flashed. Teeth clenched. And then he was dropping down a beast. An absolute monster of a wave.
The surf journalist couldn’t believe what he had just witnessed and exclaimed, “That fucking stand-up paddleboarder just made me forever repent. He is a man’s man.” The team manager, sitting next to him, smiled and finally responded, “Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.’”