On last year's Hawaii Issue cover, dropping from commercial airspace on a stickerless gun was Honolulu's Mike Pietsch — a 31-year-old, born-and-raised Town boy with a good job at his family's title and escrow firm. Mike was far from a pro surfer, but like countless unknowns on this Pacific rock, he surfs well enough — and then some. Anyone looking closely in 2010 would have noticed Mike rushing Pipe and outer reefs, making summertime jaunts to Teahupo'o and Cloudbreak when it got f—ked-up big. He only paddles, too. OG-style. Too bad sponsors don't go sniffing around the real estate industry for 30-something nobodies to pick up.
Except Patagonia, which sort of does whatever it wants, including put Mike on its exclusive Ambassador team just as he looks to extend last winter's Cinderella story into a franchise. "I was fortunate to line up with Patagonia," Mike said when SURFING rang him. "They're going to help me out a bit, which is sort of giving me the excuse to chase some swells and focus on what's going on both in and outside of Hawaii."
And Mike needs an excuse because, again, he's not a pro surfer. He doesn't want to be. Last season's flurry of exposure was dandy, but he's literally not quitting his day job.
"I'm definitely taking [surfing] more seriously in that I want to be on every swell," Mike told us, "but…I mean, with regard to the whole cover thing, that was unbelievable, and I think for a second my mind kind of changed. I thought, 'Ok, what can I make out of this?' But then reality hit and it was like, 'Hey — catching a wave like that? That's the payment.' So I don't want to think of surfing any differently, as something that's going to make money."
So, true to the underground, Mike keeps paddling out on his own terms and without pretense — only now he can do it farther from home, at Todos and Maverick's and other cold-water spots no one should rightly wish to visit. But hey, "I got a really good wetsuit with a hood and booties from Patagonia," Mike explained, as if that were the only factor to weigh. So everything's roses.
When Mike answered our call he was driving to the Country to pick up some new equipment ("I started trying to rebuild the quiver because I broke all my boards"), and nursing a rib injury sustained at Pipeline two weeks back. He was taking it easy and relieved at the presently bleak Oahu forecast. "I think it needs another week or two weeks," he said of his rib, which he'd separated from its cartilage pulling in on his very first wave. "But I mean, if another big swell comes, I'll probably just muscle it."