Mitchell is 'rock' solid
The Australian will use music to keep him motivated in Sunday's paddleboard race
If defending his five-time crown wasn't enough, Jamie Mitchell has figured out a new way to keep himself sharp and motivated as he relentlessly paddles the 32-mile divide between Molokai and Oahu this weekend.
The Australian plans to listen to rock on his waterproof iPod.
Mitchell, the posterboy of the Quiksilveredition Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race, takes to the open waters of the Ka'iwi Channel, along with 124 other competitors, at Papohaku Roadstead on the Friendly Isle early Sunday morning.
Maunalua Bay Beach Park in Hawaii Kai will again serve as the finish line. Ideal weather conditions are expected (6-to 8-foot swells) but the channel can be capricious nonetheless.
That's where the music comes in handy.
"It seems to definitely help when you're starting to hurt," Mitchell said, grinning. "A lot of rock music, not too much slow stuff. I tried it one time and I loved it -- now I really enjoy doing it."
Before losing the Catalina Classic last year to California's Kyle Daniels, Mitchell rattled off an unprecedented five-year streak of first-place finishes in all paddleboarding events he competed in.
This coincided with the 30-year-old's dominance in the Quiksilveredition, including a jaw-dropping 17-minute victory margin last year. And since being runner-up to Daniels, he hasn't lost an event.
The reminder that he is, in fact, human, might have been just the spark he needs to regain his supremacy.
"It was sort of good," Mitchell said with a laugh. "It was a long year and I wasn't as prepared as I should have been. But it's history now, and I'm looking forward to Sunday for sure. This year I've probably been as focused as I've been the whole five years."
Jamie, his younger brother, Justin, and their coach, Mick Dibetta, train together back home in Queensland and will all compete this year.
Dibetta believes Jamie Mitchell has the rare ability to minimize the amount of time his mind and body "switches off" at the taxing 4-hour mark into the race.
"When you switch off, and someone else is still on, you're gonna lose a mile in pretty much no time," Dibetta said. "He never discounts anyone and he never disrespects anyone."
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kanesa Duncan, Brian Rocheleau, Marc Rocheleau, Jamie Mitchell, Shaira Westdorp and Mick Dibetta are among the competitors entered in Sunday's race. CLICK FOR LARGE
Dibetta, a 44-year-old lifeguard, doesn't believe in that iPod stuff. Instead, he'll tape five powerbar snacks to his 18-foot paddleboard, and as each hour of the race passes, he'll eat one to mark the time and progress.
Mitchell owns the course record of 4 hours, 56 minutes, 3 seconds set in 2004, when there were favorable winds throughout. The same goes for Hawaii resident and fellow five-time winner Kanesa Duncan, who set the women's mark that year in 5:53.49.
One of the biggest challenges for race director Mike Takahashi -- who has seen participation grow from 30 people 11 years ago to four times that today -- has been raising the appeal of the event for female competitors. There will most likely be three women in the solo competition this year. In some years, Duncan has won uncontested.
Duncan, a 31-year-old assistant professor in science education at the University of Hawaii, likes it better when she has competition -- it "ups the stakes" -- but she takes pride in completing the race regardless.
"It's really in a lot of ways a personal accomplishment," Duncan said. "There's something pretty powerful about paddling yourself from one island to another."
A new division for Stand Up Paddlers (in which the racers stand the whole way and use a canoe-type paddle) was added this year. The standard paddlers position themselves on their knees or lying prone.