GOLD Coast lifeguard Jamie Mitchell has attracted comparisons with surfing great Kelly Slater as he attempts to win a 10th-consecutive Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard World Championship in Hawaii this weekend.
The 34-year-old has made the gruelling 51.5km open-ocean race his own for the past decade and in doing so has cemented himself as one of the greatest watermen of all time.
Mitchell is the course record holder for the event (4h:48m:23s), has won a number of prestigious race across several continents and has posted records that may never be touched.
Champion ironman Trevor Hendy and Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight yesterday agreed that Mitchell had achieved greatness in the surfing world.
“Jamie is not only an unbelievable waterman, he has redefined the way paddlers do long-distance paddling,” Hendy said.
“And he is up there with the great big-wave surfers in world.
“There is nothing in the water he can't do, and to top it all off, he is just a great bloke.
“Everywhere he goes, he is a great inspiration. That is what sets the great guys apart, they inspire others to better themselves and Jamie does that.”
Hendy, who 10-time surfing world champion Slater lists as a mentor, said Mitchell didn't need a 10th Molokai title to reach legendary status.
“He has already done that with nine, but 10 would be the sealer, and it would match Kelly Slater. Anyone who can win 10 titles in their chosen profession is incredible, it is very rare, but he doesn't need 10 in my eyes.
“I do hope he pulls it off, because a perfect year for him would be to pull that off ... then surf a 50-foot wave.”
Quiksilver sponsors both Mitchell and Slater, and McKnight puts the two in the same league.
“The ocean is a challenging stage that entices many but is mastered by few,” McKnight said.
“We have been so fortunate to have two of these rare, talented watermen under our banner in Jamie Mitchell and Kelly Slater. They are once-in-a-lifetime athletes. We wish Jamie every success this Sunday and look forward to welcoming him home at the finish line.”
Mitchell has been in Hawaii acclimatising and racing for the past two weeks.
During that time he has logged victories in the 27.3km Cline Mann race off the shores of Oahu, and the 14.5km Maliko Gulch race off Maui. His final challenge is the Molokai Channel.
“I want to leave it all out on the channel this year,” Mitchell said.
“I'm going to give it everything I've got to have the race of my life.
“The Molokai Channel is my Everest. I've given it 10 years of my life. I've done the preparation, and I'm looking forward to putting it all to work.
“The Molokai is one of those races where you can't afford to slack off on anything – hydration, nutrition, the course, your fitness, your equipment. You've got to piece it all together and they need to be right on key on the day.”
If all goes according to plan, Mitchell will paddle to shore at Maunalua Bay, Hawaii Kai, Oahu, at around noon on Sunday.
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