He’s the local lad best known for his pro surfer status but Mitch Crews is a guy with his fingers in a few pies. Strange saying that one but let’s move on.
Recently he, along with his mum and sister, opened West Brew Coffee in Tweed Heads, bringing their passion for beans to the quality-coffee-starved southern folks.
We sat down for a chat with Mitch about caffeine, living the salty life and qualifying for the 2018 World Series.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I moved up here when I was about 14 with my family and I’m 28 this year so awhile. I was born on the Sunny Coast but I’ve been in Currumbin ever since.
What do you love most about living here?
For me obviously being a surfer, the good waves, the warm weather, I think the Coast pretty much has everything you need in terms of living a quality lifestyle. You’ve got the great beaches, the awesome hinterland and a great nightlife and café culture developing now. You can’t really beat that. I’m fortunate enough to travel a lot through what I do but coming home, I feel like this is the best place I could live.
How’d you go in the Burleigh Pro on the weekend?
I got quarters so I guess that’s fifth. It was good fun, I was a bit disappointed I didn’t go further but it’s all good. For the past few years, the conditions haven’t been that good but this year was one of the better years. It’s a great event, I’m glad they have it, it’s always a bit of fun.
How did this pro surfing thing come about for you?
I started doing it when I was 10 but nothing was ever really planned. I surfed every day, mornings before school and after school and slowly but surely it evolved into competing then I got noticed by brands and sponsored and it just sort of happened. I’ve been really fortunate.
You had a massive set back a couple of years ago; can you tell us about that?
In 2009 I was 19 and had some really bad pain in my lower back, swelling that kind of came up abruptly in my wrists and ankles, it was really strange. I thought I’d injured myself but in the end I was diagnosed with a type of arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis, which is inflammation in the spine and sacrum. It was a bit of a shock because obviously I need to use my body to do what I do. It was strange to go through that journey of figuring out how to fix it but I got on a good routine and found a way to combat it. That was eight years ago now and I went on to a have pretty successful career after that so it was a blessing in disguise really. At first the doctors said I wouldn’t be surfing and I don’t think they realised the magnitude of what that meant to me, which was everything. I was pretty determined to prove that wrong. It took about six months but I did the last year of the junior series and ended up winning that year. It was a really cool, eye-opening experience.
How did it change your approach to surfing and life in general?
I’ve always looked after myself, I’m into holistic lifestyle training so it just opened my perspective a bit more and taught me not take things for granted so much. Obviously when you’re in your early twenties you want to go out and carry on with everyone but it made me a bit more mindful of the bigger picture and being able to do whatever I want to do every day, which is surf.
What do you get up to around here when there’s no waves?
I recently opened a coffee shop with my mum and sister so that little side project has been keeping me busy. I like to go out to the hinterland and shut off every now and then. I think that’s really important right now, everyone’s so wound up so it’s good to go chill. I do travel a lot as well but it’s looking like I’m going to be around home a bit longer than usual early this year so I’m stoked about that.
Tell us about West Brew Coffee…
I’ve always loved the coffee culture and when I’m not surfing I spend most of my time around cafes drinking coffee with friends. An opportunity came up where a little space down in Tweed West was available and I thought it would be nice to bring the coffee culture to that area. I don’t really have the experience in hospitality but my sister and mum were very passionate about getting involved. I’m good friends with Nick Pearce at Blackboard so I decided to open up a little coffee shop. We’ve had a great response from the local community and everyone’s really excited. Also with KC opening Hymn down the road, I think it’s brought a lot of attention to the area now. It’s so beautiful down there and it hasn’t really been recognised. In Tweed West there’s some of the most beautiful waterfront property you can get and I think it’s got lots of potential to be a nice new suburb for young families to move down too. It’s been an awesome experience, I’m learning every day about coffee and what people want.
Most importantly, what kind of food can we eat there?
We do a small breakfast menu, we’ve got this Brew Muesli dish, it’s got coconut cream, with Paleo activated muesli rather than your stock standard that’s everywhere else. Basically the philosophy we’re trying to go by is supporting local farmers surrounding the area so like Piggabeen, Murwillumbah, Kingscliff and we’re trying to use organic produce where we can. I’m a really big believer in supporting local. I got to meet some farmers from around the area who are doing it all the right ways, all organic and it’s really cool to see. They’re doing business the old way but they’re really passionate about their products and it gets me so psyched.
What’s the plan for 2018?
This is the first year that I don’t have everything fully structured. I’m going to a few of the Qualifying Series events so I’ll be jetting off the Japan and South Africa just before June. I’m doing a bit more free surfing stuff, maybe some video projects for magazines. No real huge goal for the World Tour but the next month has a bunch of Australian events that I’m doing so that’ll dictate if I’m going to have a good hard slog at the QS. It’s exciting, I’m so fortunate to get to do what I do and being involved with the coffee shop is really exciting, I’ve found this new passion.
Got any life advice for us?
I definitely live every day to it’s fullest. I believe you’ve only got the one moment to shine so there’s no use in taking the safe road.
Your favourites on the Coast…
Surf break: I’m into Burleigh at the moment; my last few surfs there have been really fun
Café: Obviously West Brew but I live in Tugun at the moment so I do regular Good Day coffee a lot
Restaurant: I like The Collective, I think what’s happening in Palmy right now is awesome. I like baskk in Kirra and Justin Lane is always fun
How does your weekend usually look: Over the holidays I found myself going to all the places I just listed a bit but recently it’s just been surfing a lot because the waves have been really good. I’ll usually hit Currumbin Markets on a Saturday morning then no doubt surf, hang out at my house and have a few mellow beers in the afternoon, nothing too complex
Photos 2 and 5 via Surfing Queensland.