Words: Chris Binns
Brazil just keeps breaking the big news of late. Last week it was Jordy Smith ending his non-South African CT drought, then early yesterday morning, and perhaps more surprising still, it was Mitch Coleborn who danced all over the large lefts of Saquarema to top a Prime event podium for the first time. Mitch picked up a pallet of points in the process and finally has us all believing that maybe, just maybe, the time is right for one of Australia’s most talented surfers to claim his rightful place at the Dream Tour table.
Surfing Life got the switchboard to patch us through to the well-spoken and ever-polite Sunshine Coast shredder for a quick catch up in LA, between flights home.
Mitch Coleborn, fuck yeah!
How’d you go last night?
We had a beer, packed our bags, then went straight to the airport. Landed in LA a few hours later, but no partying as of yet. I’m on a 12-hour layover right now, just chilling, then I fly home. Think we’re gonna have a nice dinner and a couple of drinks in Brisbane before I jet straight to Fiji that night.
This is all a bit restrained.
Yeah! It feels good just letting it all sink in. Normally a win is the best feeling in the world closely followed by the worst headache ever the next day. This time I’m still on a high. Feels interesting, haha!
You’re winning the Qualifying Series. Or the World Rankings? Whatever it is now...
Yeah, crazy huh?
There are less events this year, so what does it all mean for qualifying?
I think I like it. The QS, no matter what people say, is a grind, it’s a hard slog. When I saw that they’d cancelled the Europe leg and all that, I was like, “Shit, that’s perfect. Less events, more points, here we go!” All of a sudden the job that had to be done seemed a lot clearer to me. I didn’t have to screw around going to Europe for six weeks chasing points, I could pick and choose my schedule. Go somewhere for a week then come home and train hard and surf and do whatever, and reset for the next one. As soon as I figured that out I got way more amped for a year than I’ve ever been before.
Is a win worth more like this?
Well this one definitely is, because I’m the first non-CTer to win this year (Dusty Payne took out the only other Prime event this year at Margaret River). As long as I get a good result, the only other guys you want to see around you are the Top 34. They can swallow up all the other points, no worries.
When we profiled you last year (for Surfing Life 289), talking competitively you said you “can’t live off the junior series forever”. Is this the best thing you’ve done in a jersey since then?
Yeah, for sure. It’s definitely my biggest win. In my quarter final against Dion Atkinson I caught a wave that I knew was a really good score, and this feeling came over me, I got the tingles and gave it a little fist pump… I haven’t had that since beating Kelly (Slater) last year in Fiji. It’s definitely my best result in a long time, but it’s also the same winning feeling I got last year at Cloudbreak.
Is it a bit weird going to Fiji as a wildcard, competing against the tour guys knowing it’s not worth much beyond putting your name out there and getting some epic waves to yourself?
I’m not bummed at all, going “Ah, I wish I was getting the points” or anything. It’s another experience, another trip to Fiji and more practice against the big dogs. The tour is such a heavy learning curve that the more time you put in around it the better. Hopefully next year I WILL be there as part of the tour, and then this is just more preparation for that.
Did being in the event last year just make you really hungry to be a part of the tour full time?
Yeah, for sure. It made me realise just how good those guys have it. The waves were incredible, the location, the way the events are run, the prize money. I just couldn’t see a single thing wrong with the World Tour, and it’s been a huge motivation to become a part of it ever since.
The prize money isn’t too bad on the Prime Series either… you just won 40K in Brazil!
Yeah! There’s a bit of money on that tour nowadays. Not too shabby, a forty-grand day yesterday, it was good. Money’s always in the back of your mind, but you definitely don’t do the QS for the prize money. It all helps with the house repayments, but at the end of the day it’s the points I’m after this year for sure.
Your hero growing up was Joel Parkinson. He was born on the Sunshine Coast, you train in the same gym and your paths keep crossing... What did you take from him finally winning the title last year?
I’ve never compared myself to Joel, but him winning the title last year just gives you so much inspiration. After all the things that could have gone against him, the few times Kelly got scores that could have gone the other way, like against Dusty in Santa Cruz, then both of them making the semis at Pipe… It seemed like the hardest year to win the title, and he finally ended up on top… After such a crazy year, and all the stuff he’s been through over the years with injuries, I can’t believe he final got the title. It’s definitely inspiring.
Mitch Crews and Jack Freestone also train with you under Wes Berg. Do they keep you bouncing off the walls?
It’s great! They’re a bit younger than me, and I’ve only met them recently, but we’re travelling together and they’re so good to be around. They’ve got the best energy, it’s a laugh a second. Crewsy rips and really pushes me, and then Jack is just amazing, some of the stuff he’s been doing in the water lately. It’s a great little team to be travelling with, and really makes me look forward to the rest of the year.
You’ve got the best of both worlds. In between events you can mince down the coast filming with Kai Neville and Dion Agius, then you can jump back in with your jock squad and go do push-ups in between heats and stuff the rest of the time.
Ha! Something like that. We don’t train too much around events, it’s more about getting into a good routine. As well as Wes coming on the road for a few events I’ve got a guy from the Sunshine Coast, Mitch Roberts, who’s going to do the rest of the year with me. I’m not the best at getting motivated, and he always keeps me on my toes and gives me that extra little kick up the arse I need to perform at my best and stay on top of things.
It must have been a nice payoff for all your hard work having Wes chair you up the beach in Brazil?
Definitely. I looked in after one of my waves and saw, like, Heath Joske, Lincoln Taylor, Stu Kennedy, all the Aussie ratbags standing around Wes going mad. It felt really good knowing they were all there supporting me.
There are guys in your age group who’ve already qualified for the tour then fallen off an disappeared, does it feel like this might actually be a better time to get on and hopefully stay on?
For sure! A few people have been saying it’s about time I had a win, or this win is overdue, but I don’t really feel that at all. To be honest this feels perfect, the timing, you name it. Everything happens for a reason, and right now it feels amazing to be exactly where I am, and hopefully with a lot more left in front of me.
No doubt you’ve had a ton of texts, emails and whatnot since the win, any from surprising sources?
More than anything it’s just been the number of messages that has surprised me. It almost brought a tear to my eye how many people, who’ve been following my career from when I was a grom, have come out of the woodwork to pass on their support. It’s pretty special, I’ve been getting bombarded with texts and I’m really stoked to know that so many people still care, even thought I haven’t had a result in years. Hopefully they’re all just as keen to see me on tour next year as I am. It would be a dream come true for everyone, really.