When Jamie Mitchell took off a 60 foot wave at Belharra during the Hercules swell, the Australian waterman raised his exposure as one of the elite big-wave riders in the world. Surf Europe caught up with Jamie and his own words asked him to shed a few secrets.

1) The Wave behind his Belharra bomb was even bigger

On the wave I rode, I slipped down and was then sucked back over the falls. It wasn’t a super long hold down, but it was pretty violent and when I came up, and was facing the other way. I turned around and the next wave was even bigger. That landed on Twiggy’s head and he got smoked and then I looked up and had a wall of whitewater coming to me.  I was just sitting there knowing no one could help me and I looked in the channel and everyone is just looking at you. I was the full deer in the headlights and there was 60 foot of whitewater coming straight at me. I was just bobbing in the ocean waiting for it to hit me.

I have a Patagonia vest and you can pre-inflate them, so I had already had air in my flotation, so its yin and yang, sometimes you want to get rid of the air and dive down, but in  any case there was too much going on and no time so I just bobbed under the water a foot or two and that thing just mowed me down for even longer.

Another angle, still rather large.

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2) He spends a fair part of the year at the Monaco Royal Palace

I’m an ambassador for Princess Charlene’s of Monaco’s foundation. She is the wife of Prince Albert and represented South Africa at the Sydney Olympics in swimming. Her foundation is about teaching to kids to swim and water safety I met them a few years ago and have been doing consultancy role. For that I have to spend a fair chunk of the year at the Royal Palace which is pretty cool.

That's Charlene on the left, and Jamie on the right.

3) He had asthma as a kid

I grew up in Coffs Harbour on the East Coast of Australia doing the surf lifesaving thing. My parents actually put me in the swimming lessons at a young age because I had asthma, and from there I competed in surf lifesaving all the way through my teens. I always surfed, but just for fun, I was too busy racing.

4) The Belharra wipeout was in his top 5

That was of my top five wipeouts I have ever had, I have had a couple of bad ones at Jaws and a couple at Mavericks and Todos. I mean they are all different, but that was right up there. There is just so much water moving at Belharra, it’s deep water ocean, its very very different to those other waves. If another big wave had come through it would have been very interesting.

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5) Until recently he was a part-time surfer

I don’t have the miles or the technique of the Dorians and the Twiggys, or the talent really.  Surfing was just always fun, so now I’m just trying to spend more time in the surf. It’s actually good to know I can improve and that helps mentally. When I was training for the Molokai to Oahu Race (which he won a record 10 times) I’d go from surfing once a week,  to a couple times a month and then I wouldn’t touch a board for three months. Then a 20 foot swell would come along and I would go and try and surf, so very it’s different for me.

Jamie far left, goes through the session with Dorian.

shane dorian jamie mitchell

6) He never wanted to be a big-wave surfer

When I started going to Hawaii for the Molokai I met a load of people there and decided to spend the winters on the North Shore and surf. I never wanted to be a big wave surfer or anything, I just wanted to improve my surfing and challenge myself. I surfed Sunset as big as it got and then Waimea and then the tow surfing kicked off and I got involved in that.  So its just been just a slow, natural evolution. lt was just and is always my passion. Now with the paddling taking a back seat, I have more time to chase the swells and and it’s just where I want to be. I want to be swinging around on 60 footers.