Jamie Mitchell on his epic Jaws contest wipeout: “I don’t feel immortal; It shows how close you are to dying!”

Hits the bottom so hard his wetsuit is ripped and his ass, legs and feet are cut. He pulls his inflatable vest but the downward pressure is so great nothing happens.

Two weeks ago, Maui surfer Billy Kemper won his fourth Jaws contest, his second in a row, in thirty-foot-plus waves.

It was a very good event, and not just for the thrill of seeing large tubes ridden, but for the satisfaction of watching competitors brought down violently by the impossible-to-fight physics of giant moving hunks of water.

And, Australian surfer Jamie Mitchell, the man Kelly Slater calls “one of the greatest unknown sportsmen of all time” for his ten consecutive victories in the Molokai to Oahu paddle race, had a wipeout that really pushed his face through the window.

Jamie, who turns forty-three in a few weeks, was at home at Sunset Beach on the North Shore, where he live with his wife and two kids, when I called to discuss the event.

The last time we’d spoken was four years ago when I’d recorded an audio track of Jamie describing what it was like to be shoved underwater on a sixty-foot wave, in that case, Belharra, at Saint-Jean-de-Luz in France’s south-west.

“I’ve never felt so alone,” he said at the time.

This wipeout, during his round one heat of the contest, was worse.

Jamie’s one of the best in the game but whenever he has a heat in some big-wave event he tends to only catch one wave so he’s made it his goal to ride four waves in ever heat.

At Jaws, he was almost twenty minute in, half the heat gone, and he was waveless. Jamie told himself, “Whatever comes in, I’m taking it. It doesn’t matter how big it is or how late I am getting into it.’

Almost immediately after he made his vow, the biggest wave of the morning, perhaps  the day, poked its nose over the fence.

Twiggy Baker was further out. He missed it.

Jamie was in a good spot to catch it. He turned, put down his head and used those formidable paddle arms to get him into the wave as fast as he could.

“I knew this was going to be the wave of my life or the wipeout of my life,” he says.

It was a decent entry.

https://twitter.com/wsl/status/1210953553285500928

The funny thing about Jaws is it can look glassy, but a fifty-foot wave, which is how big Jamie is calling this, generates its own offshore, adding to the east-south-east coming into the right.

“I thought I was in,” says Jamie. “The nose was actually pointed down. If you look closely you can see my left hand is trying to push the nose of my board down.”

Jamie knows that once a bit of wind gets under the nose of your board, you’re fucked.

“I knew I wasn’t going to make it so I jumped to try and penetrate. But the wave was so big when I was falling my leash and my board yanked me.”

He ended up hitting the wave on his left side, head and shoulder first.

How was the impact?

“Impact was bad. My left side, my left neck and shoulder went numb instantly. They call it a stinger. When the wave sucked back over I went over the falls and then I don’t know if I blacked out quickly but I just remember I was on the bottom, on the rocks, on my back.”

Jamie hits the bottom so hard his wetsuit is ripped and his ass, legs and feet are cut. He pulls his inflatable vest but the downward pressure is so great nothing happens.

“I couldn’t do anything. I was at the mercy of this thing,” he says.

Even his board was completely submerged.

“Normally, when you’re underwater half your board is tombstoning. My was underwater. And my leg was getting yanked to the surface but I was stuck on the bottom.”

Jamie remembers thinking, let it play out, save your oxygen.

“It’s hard because you’re fight or flight and your initial thought is get to the surface to avoid a two-wave holdout,” he says. “But then, if you don’t converse your oxygen and you do have a two-wave holdout, well…”

Pause.

“You let yourself go and be calm.”

When he made it to the surface, almost on the rocks, Jamie swallowed a half-breath of air before a second wave hit him. Water safety patroller Abe Lerner got him on the rescue ski but Jamie couldn’t use his left arm. Dragged aboard, he was pulled off the back of the sled by his board hitting the water. Jamie enjoyed another wave on the head before getting out the back and into the final ten minutes of is heat.

“But it was all over. I got a mild concussion. I was seeing stars and feeling wobbly, drunk, what a boxer feels after getting hit. I just had to survive the rest of the heat.”

Afterwards, Jamie had people come up to him and say that it was lucky he took the wipeout as he had the tools, the training, the lungs to survive it.

“That’s the exact reason I train. To be able to be calm in that situation and be able to get back to my family.”

How did it compare to his Belharra wipeout?

“Belharra was bad but Jaws was a lot worse. A lot more violent. The one at Belharra rolled me underwater a long way. Jaws pinned me to the bottom and I went so deep so fast I didn’t equalise. All of a sudden I was on the bottom. It was crazy.”

I say that he must feel sorta immortal, capable of surviving anything, after the wipeout.

“Not really. There’s another big swell coming and I’m interested to see how I’m going to feel. It rattled me, to be honest. I’ve thought about a few different things, scenarios since. I don’t feel immortal. It shows how close you are to actually dying. It’s closer than you think.”


Ironbound (pictured) cursing "artists" and "dissidents."

Official End of the World: “Rotund” Great White shark refuses to leave South Florida, threatening to eat every single Miami “artist” and anti-Cuban “dissident!”

This is the end, my friend. Etc.

But have you ever been to South Florida? Miami-adjacent? I have but only twice. Once when circumnavigating the entire state for a very important Surfing magazine feature. Can you believe that Surfing magazine was once a thing?

I can’t.

But it was the best thing, edited by the most handsome surf journalist ever Travis Ferre, photo edited by almost equally handsome Peter Taras. Maybe Greek. Maybe not. And, in retrospect, I cannot believe the powers that be chose to shutter Surfing instead of Surfer.

Surfer had the name, the history, but Surfing had the spunk. The features from Florida and so I was there, then, circumnavigating the State, staying at The Standard when I was in Miami.

Not recommended, to be honest, but when I was there a few years later I stayed at the Faena and ooooee!

You should too.

Or maybe not.

Miami has no surf, zero surf, but also it was just revealed today that a massive Great White named “Ironbound” is refusing to leave those cocaine-infused waters (buy here) but do you not believe me?

Do you think I’m tossing smoke in order to protect my favorite Miami-adjacent surf breaks?

For shame.

There is no such thing and I would never do that to you but let’s head together to CNN for the latest on this unseemly incursion.

Tourists and snowbirds aren’t the only ones spending the holidays around South Florida.

A 12-foot, 4-inch long great white shark that researchers have named Ironbound has been tracked to the waters south of Key Biscayne, near Miami.

The adult male shark weighs 998 pounds, according to the group OCEARCH, which tagged and is tracking the shark.

Ironbound was caught and tagged on October 3 off Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and has traveled 1,473 miles down the US East Coast since then. He’s named after West Ironbound Island, which is near where he was caught.

It’s been a busy week for the shark trackers.

OCEARCH said that seven of its tagged sharks have pinged with their location in recent days.

Etc.

And you don’t want to learn any more. You shouldn’t. It’s the official end of our species but happy New Year, I guess?

If you haven’t been eaten?

Stop surfing now.

It’s all over.

A wrap.


Shark (pictured) swimming.

Christmas Day Horror: Beach closed after “massive” Great White circles two teenage surfers at new artificial reef!

Extreme Grinch.

But what did you do on Christmas day after opening your gifts? Attend a boozy brunch? Head to the movies? Shiver uncontrollably while contemplating how finite life truly is?

Go surfing?

Surfing would have been the right call, paddling off those extra lbs, communing with nature etc. except, as you are very well aware, we are currently living through a shark apocalypse and the beasts respect neither life nor holiday tradition, religious or non.

And the Great Whites’ Jehovah’s Witness-like attitude was put on wickedly scary display at an Australian beach not far from Burleigh Heads that is proud host of a new artificial reef.

Our source, preferring to remain unnamed so as not to raise the shark’s hackles, was there enjoying a warm and sunny Christmas day with his family.

“It was a little onshore, not amazing, but there were a few waves hitting the reef.” He said. “Interestingly, when the council first made the reef it was super shallow and looking like there’d be a wild wedge but the council scooped out a bunch of the rock to make it deeper and, obviously, less dangerous. It’s not as good but it breaks and it attracts marine life.”

That dreaded marine life.

In any case, our source saw two teenage surfers, good surfers who are likely innocent but one never quite knows with teenagers these days. They told him they were going to hit the reef. He watched them catch a few early afternoon waves then suddenly a jetski comes flying in, snags both boys and races them to the sand.

Our source asked them what happened. They replied that they were circled by a Great White so close they could see the markings, scratches, on its monstrous dorsal fin.

The beach was shut down for one hour.

There was nothing on local news but much chatter in the lineup and in town about the predatory visitor.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in sharks since the reef. We’ve seen a few bulls, a few smaller sharks.” our source said, “But nothing like Christmas Day. This is Jaws.”

Would Jaws stop you from surfing the new artificial reef?

Per the council’s description:

The artificial reef is constructed of large rock boulders and is 1.5 metres below the average water level at its highest point. Significant investigation and design effort has gone into designing the artificial reef, including coastal data analysis, computer modelling and wave tank testing.

It both sounds and looks fun but…

…oh I just don’t know anymore. I think we gift the ocean to the hideous, horrible, carnivorous sons of guns at this point.

I think if you received a brand-new surfboard under the Christmas tree that it be returned for a beach volleyball.

Very scary.


Honey Trap: Australian Tourism Board uses 90s pop icon Kylie Minogue, surfing, to lure Brexit-weary British to scorched, shark-ravaged island!

Come for the brush fire, stay and get eaten.

And have you ever been baited then switched? Sold a bill of goods? Bought a Rolex for a shockingly low price from a friendly man on the streets of New York City but, contrary to the watch maker’s sterling reputation, have it break soon thereafter?

Oh we’ve all fallen for scenarios we know, with our heads, too good to be true. The heart, though, it wants what it wants and Australia’s very smart tourism board is capitalizing on this very human trait in order to lure Brexit-weary British visitors to their sun and fire scorched, Great White shark ravaged island and let’s quickly read about the ploy on onetime news leader CNN:

Australian tourism officials are banking on Kylie Minogue to convince British tourists to take a break from all the political drama at home and take in the sights Australia has to offer.

The Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and actress stars in a humorous, three-minute music video that aired on British TV right before Queen Elizabeth II’s annual Christmas broadcast.

“I’m such a proud Australian that I’ve spent most of my life travelling around the world sharing my stories of Australia with anyone who would listen, so I kind of feel like a walking tourism advert for Australia already,” she said in a statement.

More than 700,000 people visited Australia from the UK in the year ending in June, according to Tourism Australia, making it the fourth-largest source of tourists behind China, New Zealand and the United States. They spent AUD $3.4 billion ($2.4 billion USD, £ 1.8 billion), but that’s down from the previous year.

“It’s no secret that the UK has been going through a period of uncertainty, and this has had an impact on outbound travel, including to Australia where numbers have dipped in recent months,” Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said in a statement.

They’re hoping that the campaign, and Minogue’s popularity in the UK will encourage more tourists.

Very exciting but what will these hordes of British visitors think when they are met with a burning Eucalyptus tree? When their pasty, pale skin literally melts off their slightly-deformed bones from record-breaking heat waves? When they finally get to the beach and stumble across a human foot left behind by an extra-large “man-eating’ Great White shark?

Will they feel duped?

They shouldn’t.

I would trade my American citizenship tomorrow for an opportunity to live in apocalyptic Australia.

Would you have me, mates?


Ugly twist: “Monstrous” Great White shark mauls goat boat and almost eats captain near The Endless Summer’s “perfect wave” Cape Saint Francis!

Destroyers of cinematic glory.

Well hell. Well awful, no pause in the Great White Apocalypse hell. And you thought, for one brief minute, that the “man-eating” Great White shark respected holidays? That she took time off like you and your banker?

Well apparently you have not learned enough here, here, here, etc. about his predilections, his perversions, unsurpassed work ethic for just yesterday, Christmas Day, a monstrous beast attempted to eat an entire goat boat plus its captain just off Cape Saint Francis there in bucolic South Africa, home of The Endless Summer’s “perfect wave.”

Oh, the indignity, the nastiness is clearly two-fold but let us get hard facts and details etc. before snatching our pitchforks and booking long, long, long tickets. Let’s head directly to a local news’ source.

Nahoon Beach has been closed to beachgoers after a shark attack early Thursday.

Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality said at about 7am, a shark attacked a surf ski off Nahoon Reef.

“The paddler is fine with no injuries,” the city said in a statement.

“ … The beach will remain closed as a safety precaution.”

City officials will monitor the area.

A swimmer drowned on the beach earlier this week.

Geoff McGregor, the National Sea Rescue Institute’s East London station commander, said: “At 4.45am, Monday, December 23, NSRI East London duty crew were activated after reports of a drowning in progress at Nahoon Beach.”

A 23-year-old woman, from Queenstown, was found washed onto the beach after being swept out to sea by rip currents while swimming.

And on Sunday, two paddlers sighted a shark in the water at Oyster Bay.

Johannes Lodewyk van Rensburg, NSRI Oyster Bay station commander, said they responded when alerted to a double kayak washed up on rocks at Oyster Bay Point.

“Two men had been paddling from St Francis Bay to Oyster Bay and they were 300 metres offshore of Oyster Bay when they noticed a shark in the water.

“One man fell out of the double kayak and then the second man fell out of the double kayak. They both swam to shore without incident, abandoning their kayak,” he said.

Their kayak was found barely damaged, on Monday.

 

Largely undamaged.
Largely undamaged.

I honestly don’t understand most of that, assuming it’s in Afrikaans, but clearly see the words “Great White shark” and “St. Francis Bay.”

Let’s remember her the way she was.

Great White sharks sure are rude.

Destroying cinematic fantasy with a flash of the teeth.

Bastards.

But goat boats. I mean… you get what you deserve? Karma etc.?

No surfing in South Africa until we reach the bottom of all this and, as always, more as the story develops.