Chewing the Fat with Mitchell Rae
Mitchell Rae – iconic shaper, artist and all-round top bloke chews the fat on everything from surfing to spirituality.
Cb: Thanks for joining me Mitch. Everyone seems to ask you about shaping and surfing, as this is what you’re known for. But I’d like to talk with you about your journey and what has shaped you in becoming the humble legend you are today.
Mitchell: I’ve been making surfboards since I was 16 years old but the feat I’m most proud of are my three children, Rosie (25 yrs), Jackson (22 yrs), and Eloise (21 yrs).
Cb: What is the most important thing to you about being a father?
Mitchell: Your children come into this world through you, but not from you. They don’t belong to you, but you have an opportunity to teach them what you have learnt and show them the world through your eyes. What they take from you is ultimately up to them.
Cb: Well, they have learnt some quite amazing things through your actions. For example, you have been approached on many occasions to commercialise your shaping work with some serious coin as an incentive, yet you have resisted. Why?
Mitchell: It’s great to have a pot of money as it enables you to travel to great places and live the lifestyle you want. But money is like grease to me. You need just enough to oil the wheels. It’s not a priority of mine and I firmly believe the universe provides what you need.
Cb: There is a hugely spiritual element to what you’re saying and we can see this come though in your surfboards and artwork. Where do you think you learnt this ‘stuff’?
Mitchell: I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse when I was 17 years old on my first trip to Bali. It was my introduction to Eastern philosophy, having come from agnostic parents. Everything about this trip transformed me on a deeper level and was the inspiration for my professional work.
Cb: You found your trademark design, being the ‘eye’ on the surfboard during this time?
Mitchell: Yes, it’s a recognisable and distinctive feature of Outer Island surfboards. I first noticed ‘eyes’ on fishing boats in Bali. Most of the fisherman couldn’t swim and would often face turbulent seas. The eyes on the boat are thought to help them navigate through stormy seas and protect their occupants, returning them safely to their families.Cb: What does the ‘eye’ mean to you now?
Mitchell: The ‘eye’ represents a spiritual quest for truth and knowledge. For me, it also represents the purity of surfing, away from the commerciality you see in the sport these days. Surfing is the highest form of meditation. When you are in the ocean and about to ride that wave, you’re in the moment. Nothing else matters. Time is extended, and time and space are one. You’re riding that moment. That is what meditation is. And that’s when you get the surfing bug.
Cb: Your trademark also interestingly brings people together?
Mitchell: Yes, surfers often travel to remote locations in search of an uncrowded break and surf-able waves. Many folks have said they became buddies with someone because they noticed this recognisable feature on someone else’s board. It’s almost like having an extended family out there. The ‘eye’ becomes a talking point for people in faraway places. So, rather than feeling isolated, the surfboards bring people together.
Cb: That’s pretty special, Mitch. Is that also why you decided to stay small with your shaping work?
Mitchell: Call me an old hippy but I believe when a shaper and not a machine makes the surfboard, the artist puts a piece of themselves into it. This obviously can’t happen when surfboards or any artwork for that matter, are produced commercially. There is something different about handmade work, much like there is difference in living within what nature provides.
Cb: Thanks for joining us Mitch.
Custom-made surfboards by Mitchell start at $1,000 and artwork from $800. www.outerislandsurfboards.com