Mitch Crews is a rambunctious ball of energy who oft-appears as though he's just been double-bounced on a trampoline. His words trip over themselves as he spits out constant conversation, he engages and hugs everyone around him, slaps fives with vigour and is a straight up breath of fresh air for any room he enters. Crews is also part of the 2014 ASPWorld Championship Tour's intake of rookiess, and after a storied junior career, and with a fresh new sponsor deal locked away, he's about to enter the most important phase of his surfing life.
We thought we better get the Currumbin Kid to sit straight, quit fidgeting and fire us some answers about all he brings to the 'CT.
Mitch Crews! Congratulations on making it this far. If you could tell us a little bit more about yourself please?
I'm Mitchel Crews. I was born at Nambour Hospital on the Sunshine Coast, which is the same hospital Joel Parkinson was born in. Hopefully these days he tells people he was born in the same hospital as Mitch Crews! He might, he's a good bloke. I didn't stay there for long and moved to a town called Gerringong on the South Coast of New South Wales when I was 8, and then finally to the Gold Coast when I was 15-years-old. Still there. I'm 5'10Â½â€, 82 kilos and 23 years old, as far as I know.
If a television crew follow you around the Gold Coast what will we see you getting up to?
Living life as normally as possible, chilling with my mates. In between all that though, you'll see me training my arse off, surfing as much as possible and doing all I can to enhance myself. I'm at the High Performance Centre, doing all sorts of everything. Andy King takes care of the surfing, and Jeremy Shepherd is in charge of the sports science side of things. I'm in there with Bede Durbidge, Adam Melling, Sally Fitzgibbons, Dion Atkinson and a few others. To get all that for free from Surfing Australia is incredible.
How long was your apprenticeship, and what's the closest you ever came to making the tour previously?
My apprenticeship took about three years, and it almost got the better of me at times. I definitely almost called it quits once, but somehow kept my head up and got out of there in the end. My first year, in 2011, I came 38th, which meant I would have qualified with the old ranking system. But I didn't really care back then, I was kind of young and obnoxious and not too worried. If I'd wanted it as much back then as I did later I probably could have pulled it off back then, but we live and learn, don't we?
I asked what it was going to take to get me back in the water and he basically said that people with the disease aren't that mobile and don't do much physical activity.
Have you ever surfed in a WCT event before?
I've been lucky enough to surf in three. I was a wildcard at Snapper in 2011, got another wildcard for Trestles last year, and then did enough to make Pipe last year, with the funny ranking system over there and a few injuries.
'CT's are bloody hard. I know I'm really going to have to pull the finger out and surf my best if I want to make heats this year. I need to build up my confidence against the guys in the 'CTs as opposed to going up against the guys on the 'QS, it's a whole new ball game.
What do you know about your seeding, and who you'll come up against in the draw most often?
I think I'm seeded 27th? I should be coming up against the bottom of the Top 10. I wouldn't pretend for a second that that's going to be easy, but it's a bit less scary than facing Mick Fanning, Kelly Slater and Joel right away. Hopefully I can sneak through a few heats and meet up with those guys in the later rounds.
Who've you been turning to for advice about 36-man contests? What have they told you about the three man heats and the mind set you need against the big dogs?
I've had Mick and Joel as sounding boards, and I've got Andy King there too, but I've really been trying to walk to my own beat and figure it out for myself. People can tell you the world but I need to learn from a few mistakes, be a bit of a man about things and bounce back. It's not going to be easy, so I have to be prepared to screw up and try to gain something from it.
Who are you going to travel with this year?
Hurley has a huge squad at every event, and they'll be looking after me through the year, which is great. Mitch Ross and Brandon Guilmette from Hurley are the guys looking after me, and having good mates in my corner is going to be great. I don't want to lose track of life and become a surf robot, and I know Rossy and Brandon will keep me centered and down to earth.
Details your strengths and weaknesses for us please.
I'm not too sure. I know I'm very energetic and have a lot of heart in competition. I've got a lot bigger and stronger lately, and I'm confident I'll slide into a comfortable place on the tour. I've got a wide repertoire too, I wouldn't say I'm a specialist at anything, but I feel I can do everything that's needed.
I know the mental side of things might be a challenge. I'm a very emotional person, I like being friends with everyone and sometimes that can bum you out around competition, where you have to be a bit more ruthless. Hopefully I can stay positive, not get bummed out by losing, and get in a happy place and keep rolling.
I need to grow up and be a bit more patient in heats. Well, in everything really! I just want to fit as much as I can into my days and live life to the fullest, but that comes out in my heats too! I want to go 110% and catch everything, but I need to tone that down and be more patient. We're on the 'CT, the waves are gonna come, I just need to chill out and wait for 'em.
Where do you predict you'll find success this year?
All signs are pointing to Snapper. All the experience I lack surfing against guys on the tour I get back surfing out at Snapper, so hopefully that can balance out and I can get a result early in the year. I back myself at places like Bells and Trestles, and I'm really looking forward to surfing the big lefts too. You've gotta learn to love them at some point, may as well be now, right?
Have you talked to Joel about Fiji at all?
Absolutely! He's given me the rundown, he's offered to take me over early and show the ropes if I'm keen, which is as good as it gets. I'm probably going to stay with Joel at a few events this year, so to have him in my corner occasionally is going to be huge.
At an event like Rio what's it gonna take for Mitch Crews to catch the judges eye and go deep into the draw?
Good surfing. Airs, turns, showing off my whole repertoire. You're on the world stage, it'd be nice to show that I can actually surf at a standard that deserves to be there.
Let's talk tough times. Tell us about your health condition, and how it affects your surfing?
Ankylosing spondylitis. It's a type of arthritis I'm affected by. It's not too bad at the moment. I'm well and truly on top of things and I'm used to dealing with it. I'm just as fit as anyone I know, I still train as hard and surf as much as anyone, and I'm full of energy. If anything it's made me hungrier to achieve as much as I can with my career.
When I was first diagnosed (in 2010) the doctor had no real bedside manner, and he definitely didn't know how much surfing was a part of my life. I asked what it was going to take to get me back in the water and he basically said that people with the disease aren't that mobile and don't do much physical activity. He thought I was silly asking about surfing, but it made me more driven to show him how wrong he was. I became a bit of a poster boy for Arthritis Australia, and they helped me get the right medication I needed, which was only a trial drug at the time, and it turned out to be just what I needed. It was almost a blessing in disguise and I don't really think about it too much anymore, to be honest.
It's a two horse race for Rookie Of The Year between you and Dion Atkinson. Why are you going to win it, and what is your overall aim for the season?
I've set my goals a long way past winning it, and I'm sure Dion is the same. I feel like it's a very achievable goal so I'm going to pretend like it doesn't exist and aim a bit higher. It'd be nice to requalify comfortably, but I'm really just keen to see how far I can get in events, I'd love to really go deep in a couple. If I can make some semis, or crack the Top 15, I'd be stoked.
Mitch Crews, welcome to the tour!
Thanks mate, can't wait.