We caught up with Mitch Crews, the World Tour rookie who hails from the Gold Coast, to chat about his lingering arthritis and middling results halfway through his first year on Tour.
Your arthritis diagnosis, can you talk about the condition and the effect it has on you?
Yeah, in November of 2009 I was diagnosed with a type of arthritis called "Ankylosing Spondylitis," or AS for short, the name is a mouthful. Basically it's the fusion of the spine and sacroiliac joint (where the spine joins to the hip). You lose all movement of the spine and hips and your posture slants forward—kind of like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, you know?
How old were you when you found out about it?
I was only 19.
And how is this condition currently affecting you?
For now, it basically leaves me with stiff hips and a stiff back. Sometimes my joints will get inflamed and swell up. Some days will be worse than others, and some days there will be no symptoms at all. The Chinese would compare arthritis with the wind; it comes and it goes. But I'm on a medication that helps manage all the pain and progression of the disease alongside a few things that I do to help maintain myself and the condition. Like trying to eat certain foods with natural anti-inflammation properties that battle arthritis. I also focus a lot on mobility exercises to maintain my range of movement and never lose it.
Will it influence your career?
It definitely could. It's different for me, with my body not being 100 percent, but I have been dealing with it well through my career and I have made it this far so it can't really be affecting me too much. I mean, I'm still here. And with the way research is going this day and age, I'm sure a cure is just around the corner.
Has this changed your approach at all or is it just something that you’re used to dealing with?
I've tried as hard as I can to not let it change my life, I'm trying to live as any other normal young adult would. I'm still active and go out with all my friends and do anything else that anyone else my age does. It hasn't stopped me from achieving my dreams—so for now, it can take a back seat and I'll deal with it when I'm a lot older.
Let’s talk World Tour: Being pretty deep into your first season, what are your thoughts so far?
I'm enjoying it, I mean my goal was to be inside the top 20 at this part of the year and I'm sitting at an equal 21. I've learned a lot of lessons on Tour so far and all the older boys have helped me out. Hopefully from here on in I can start having a lot more discipline in my heats and start surfing like I really belong there. I'm in J-Bay right now and I am fired up.
Yeah, do you feel like it’ll be a strong comp for you?
I really like waves like J-Bay. I come from the Gold Coast, which is the land of the right point, so I hope I can do well here. Really I'm just praying that the waves are pumping and I can make some heats against some of my heroes.
(Ed. Note: Mitch will face Ace Buchan in Round 2)