July 4, 2016
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

No Limits: Jamie Mitchell’s Survivor Race at Huntington Set to Be “Open Board Class”

Huntington Beach

An aerial view of the iconic ocean arena that is Huntington Beach, California (photo @cque_13)

In what is a rather bold, unique and also very exciting move, Jamie Mitchell has opted for an “open board class” in the pro division of his Quiksilver JM Survivor Race, a highly-anticipated new event that’s happening at Huntington Beach on Sunday 14th August.

That is, there will be no board classes at all.

For the first time ever in an event such as this, competitors can paddle whatever they like with absolutely no restrictions on length: 12’6, 14, 18, 10 ft, whatever.

I think it’s a great move. It not only gives the paddlers more freedom, it’ll also encourage shapers to experiment with new board designs that are tailor-made for specialty surf racing events such as this.

I asked Jamie for his take on it, and the 10x M2O paddleboard champ emphasised how he wants to make this whole event something unique that pushes the sport forward.

Yeah mate I figured it’s a surf race after all and in the surfing world there are no limits on board design. So after a few clever paddlers suggested the idea I thought “Why not?”

Having no limits on length is a bit different to the average race but then again I’m trying to create something new and fresh with the Quiksilver JM Survivor. I want to build a more exciting course/format and a more entertaining event all round for both paddlers and spectators.

I’m really excited to see what boards everyone rocks up with. I’ll be setting a short, sharp course that will mostly be in the waves, so I think it’s less about raw speed and more about surf skills anyway. And besides it’s Huntington Beach we’re talking about – it’s not like you can race an 18 footer in a dumping 3ft beach break!

For sure a lot of athletes will race the standard 14 or 12’6 but I’d say a few of them will make custom boards with a unique length, probably even shorter than 12’6. Maybe we’ll find some eye-opening designs that really push things forward for surf racing in general.

I think it’s going to be very interesting and hopefully the whole event will help elevate the sport forward to a more entertaining level. That’s the goal anyway!

Indeed it’ll be very interesting to see what paddlers choose to race on. Personally I’d love to see someone like a Mo Freitas rock up on a custom 10’6 and win the whole thing, just to open people’s minds and show everyone what’s possible in terms of board design.

While I strongly support the idea of “Anything up to 14” as the unifying standard in 99% of races around the world, for these short, sharp surf races, where each round is probably only going to be 5 minutes long and the course will be almost entirely in the surf zone, I think the conditions should dictate the length.

Plus when it comes to racing in the waves, I believe neither 12’6 nor 14 are particularly well suited, so I’m hoping Jamie’s event will spur innovation. I think we’ll see a similar evolution in surf racing to what we saw in whitewater river racing, where the majority of competitors now race on boards in the 10-11′ range.

We only have to look at the surf life saving events in Australia, which is a professional, nationally-televised sport, to see big strong athletes (some of the pro guys weigh 100kgs or 220lbs) racing in and out through the surf on 10’6 boards. Nobody questions the length in those races, because the 10’6 prone boards in Oz are tailor-made for surf racing. Obviously it’s slightly different when you’re standing up, but the same basic logic of volume and buoyancy still applies.

If athletes choose to embrace the freedom Jamie has given them, perhaps the JM Survivor race will end up becoming sort of like what BMX racing in the Olympic Games is to traditional cycling (or to use a Winter Olympics analogy: SkiCross vs Cross-Country), i.e. short, sharp, exciting racing where it’s all about skill, strategy and agility (plus a little bit of luck) as opposed to the raw speed and power that decides most other races.

Or who knows, maybe someone will go the other way and show up with a custom 15 footer that handles the waves perfectly.

No matter what the paddlers are riding, the JM Surviror Race at Huntington Beach on Sunday August 14th is shaping up to be a cracker. A lot of top names have already committed to it, and with the backing of a mainstream surf brand the size of Quiksilver, as well as the creative mind of Mitcho himself, I’m excited to see how this show unfolds.

The event isn’t just for the pros though, it’ll also feature open age group races in case you don’t want to bump rails in the surf race.

Look for more news on Jamie’s new event, including registration, later this week.

So, now then, which shapers/designers are feeling bold enough to make one of their team riders a custom, experimental board? You’ve only got six weeks so you better get on it…