Stab Magazine | Mitch Coleborn's qualification dance

Mitch Coleborn’s qualification dance

Mitch Coleborn ain’t had a great run on the ‘QS. And your pals at Stab find it extraordinary that such a progressive, consistent and powerful surfer, a man who features heavily in the sport’s best films and helped permanently change the frontside rote (more tweaked, thanks) can’t find his contest wheels. He’s not the first, either – there’s […]

news // Feb 22, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Mitch Coleborn ain’t had a great run on the ‘QS. And your pals at Stab find it extraordinary that such a progressive, consistent and powerful surfer, a man who features heavily in the sport’s best films and helped permanently change the frontside rote (more tweaked, thanks) can’t find his contest wheels. He’s not the first, either – there’s plenty of talent that has bad luck in a jersey. So, using the Sunshine-Coaster as an example, we thought it’d be interesting to delve into the inner-psyche of a man climbing the world-rankings ladder all-too slowly. It was a very jet-lagged Mitch who answered the phone to Stab, having just returned from South Africa where he didn’t do so well in the Mr Price Pro, Ballito.

How’s your body-clock at present? I fell asleep at 9pm last night, woke up at midnight and couldn’t get back to sleep. The whole time I was in Durban, every day I was waking up at 4.30am on the dot. The night before my heat, I woke up at 2.30 in the morning. I didn’t acclimatise to it one bit and I was there for a week before I had to surf.

Is that what went wrong in your heat? Nope, I got smoked fair and square, I got no excuses for that one. I surfed against Julian Wilson, Stu Kennedy and Tim Boal. It was a hard heat, which they all are in the primes. They’ve cut it down so it’s just the top dogs every time. There’s no easy heats, so there’s no room for any errors. It’s good to have an easier heat, get it out of the road and warm into the comp, but that doesn’t happen in the primes. It’s just hard, straight off the bat.

Do you actually enjoy competing? I haven’t liked losing this year. I haven’t had a result yet. I’m sure once I get that fight back in there, once I know what to feel again, I’ll be stoked. It’s been a weird position, I’m sitting just outside the top 100, so I’m not in all the events to start off with. I put my entry in and I’m always waiting to see if I need to be planning stuff around going or not. Like, with South Africa, I wasn’t in the comp. Then I got bumped up into it at the last second.

So it’s tough to get in rhythm? Head space has so much to do with it. I was like, alright fuck it, I’m not going, ’cause I knew I wasn’t in, so I planned everything around not going, like training, surfing, whatever. Then at the last minute I find out I’m going. Get ready for some jet-lag.

Do you ever feel like you don’t need to be doing contests and could just keep putting together good video parts? I did think that for a few years. It’s not like I’m bored of it, but I just know there’s more to me. I did have a really competitive streak when I was younger and I’m trying to find it again. I wanna know that it’s still there. I wanna get that feeling back. Do it for myself. I feel like the few events I’ve been in, I’m maybe doing them ’cause people want me to do them or expect me to do them. People being like, oh, you should be on the WT. But I’m like, well obviously not, if I can’t fucking get through a heat. So it is getting really frustrating and there’s times when you think, it’s a lot more beneficial for me to just go and shoot my tits off, get a good movie section and a bunch of photos.

I asked Dusty Payne that same thing and he said you gotta do contests to stay relevant in surfing. Do you agree? I think surfing’s changing again already. Where the sponsors are going, what’s bringing in crowds and where the big money seems to be, is all the world tour. I dunno how long the whole super-cool trendy dude thing is going to last in surfing. Because now everyone’s kinda on that same level, dressing the same and doing the same shit, there’s not really any contest-antithesis guys left. In the future, I think where people are gonna make a real fucking career in surfing is on the world tour, actually being a professional athlete and not just a professional freesurfer.

So are you gonna keep at competition? I definitely wanna get my seed, crack the top 100, so next year I can actually plan around events and know what to expect. All I need is one fucking result and I feel like I’ll be on. I just haven’t got it yet and it’s kinda getting to me. But it’ll come.

What do you like most about the ‘QS? Well, nothing yet (laughs). Nah, it’s super fun travelling with a bunch of your mates. All last year I was single, so every event through Europe was just a massive party. Which was awesome. But thing is, you’re not on the ‘QS to party, you’re there to qualify.

Is it tough to draw the line with that stuff? I’m good during the event, but as soon as I get knocked out I get a bit wild. Which is definitely not the best preparation, especially considering all the contests are back to back. So that’s kinda where I was fucking up a bit. If you lose your heat, you gotta wake up the next day and surf again, prepare again, exactly as it would be if you got through. ‘Cause you got another event in a coupla days. You can’t just go on a bender from England to France and expect to do well in the next event, that’s for sure.

And what, at this point for you, is the absolute worst thing about being on the ‘QS? Just not being able to get a result yet. It’s like being in quicksand. This has always been my greatest fear, my biggest dread – doing the ‘QS, I never wanted to be just a number. And that’s all I am at the moment. I’ve always thought, who gives a fuck if you’re coming 150th or 50th, really, unless you’re qualifying, no one gives a shit. Now I’m just sitting here in 125th and to me, that’s just a number.

Depends how you look at that – essentially, according to a judging panel, there are only 124 surfers in the entire world who’re better than you. But in a lot of people’s minds I should be rated a lot higher. It’s that expectation.

Is there a trap to fall in, where you lose before you even start? Yes, but hopefully I haven’t fallen into it yet. You’ve gotta be as open-minded and positive as possible, going onto the ‘QS. You can’t have any negative thoughts, which I’ve probably shared of few too many of with you right now (laughs). – Elliot Struck


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