More Obsession Than Soul

When I started surfing at the age of 7, all I ever wanted was a photo in a surf magazine. I told my mom that if I did ever make it into a surf magazine, I would quit. To me, that was the highest level a surfer could achieve. When I finally realized that goal at 20-something, it didn’t make me want to quit. It fueled the fire. 

Around the time of the magazine photo, I started contest surfing. That did make me want to quit. Being told when to surf, where to surf, watching perfect waves all day and not being able to paddle out until my heat, and by that time the waves were blown out and crappy – contest surfing sucked the life out of the sport for me. When I finished my last contest, I decided I was done surfing. Three days later, I found myself back in the water. Surfing was the best part of my life, but I knew it had to be on my terms.

PHOTO: Peter “Oso” Snell

Since then, on any given Sunday, look for me in the ocean. It’s my favorite church, the place where I go to forget my worries for a couple of hours and connect with myself. On any other day of the week, look for me in the ocean. Surfing is my drug of choice. I want more and more and more. I want each session to be better than the last one. 

I’ve heard people say “Your worst day of surf is better than your best day at work.” This might or might not be true. I do know that even if you have a bad session, you always learn something – whether it’s something about yourself or something about the ocean. It’s basically always a learning experience. I also know that if you break up with someone, lose a loved one, or have a bad day at work, a surf session helps ease the heartache, even if only until your feet are on dry land again.

The ocean is a teacher, a healer, and a release for me, but I wouldn’t call myself a soul surfer. When I think of a soul surfer, I think of someone who paddles out to get in touch with nature and feel the vibe of the ocean. It doesn’t matter the size of the waves or the size of the crowds, the soul surfer finds peace and connection. That’s not me. I might leave my worries on the shore and get out of my head for a couple of hours, but my ego definitely paddles out with me. I want each wave to be better than the next. If it’s too crowded or the waves are just so-so, I have no problem skipping a session to wait for something better.

PHOTO: Peter “Oso” Snell

I also have no problem telling someone in the line-up that it’s my turn, even if it’s not. There are benefits to having surfed our local breaks for over 40 years. My face is hard to mistake for someone else. There are also perks to running the local surf shop. No one wants to sabotage his chance of getting a bro-deal on surf gear.

My passion is surfing, my ego loves to surf really well, and my job revolves around surfing. The people I know, the boards I’ve ridden, the different breaks I’ve surfed around the world have all given me a wider perspective of this sport. That perspective makes me a better surfer, a better salesman and a better teacher. These days, I like teaching people how to surf, giving them a glimpse of this world that I love. Whether it’s a 7-year-old boy or a 50-year-old woman, the look on his or her face when they stand up on that first wave gives me the same thrill as if I’m the beginner again. 

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Now, when I watch my own boys out in the water, it doesn’t matter what size the waves are, I’m just happy they’re catching them. I hope to see their photos in the magazines someday. But more than that, I hope to see them in the water every day. 

Mitch Taylor Bio

Seven-year-old Mitch Taylor stepped off a plane from Illinois and paddled out at Santa Monica on a second-hand board. Self-taught and obsessed, he’s been surfing ever since. He lives in Malibu with his wife and three children. You can find him in the water or at Becker, the Malibu surf shop he’s managed for over 25 years.

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