James “Chubby” Mitchell
Big, nimble, easygoing regularfooter from Honolulu, Hawaii; surfing’s double-extra-large embodiment of aloha spirit in the 1950s and early ’60s. Mitchell was born (1933) and raised in Honolulu, the son of a fireman, and began surfing at age 12. He moved to California in the early ’50s, where he played football for San Jose State College; in the late ’50s and early ’60s he lived in the southwest Los Angeles County town of Manhattan Beach.
Slow moving on land, with near-narcoleptic sleep patterns (he once fell asleep leaning against a Waikiki surfboard locker while checking the waves), Mitchell was a dynamo in the water, whip-turning his 11-foot Jacobs surfboard, deftly walking the nose, and dropping into an elegant and rock-solid crouch while shooting through whitewater sections.
Mitchell was also know for his love of jazz, his light-fingered ukulele playing, and his sharp wit. Asked how much he weighed by an airline hostess, Mitchell gently smiled, motioned for her to come closer, then shouted the answer into her ear: “282!” He appeared in a half-dozen surf movies, including Spinning Boards (1961), Cavalcade of Surf (1962), and Angry Sea (1963).
Mitchell died of heart failure in 1972 at age 40.