By Mike Sharkey
It’s tough being Mitch Kaufmann these days. The Atlantic Beach-native turned 55 in late February and spent the day doing pretty much whatever he wanted. There was a short stint at work (he owns Atlantic Video Production), a pound of lobster for lunch at TacoLu, a surf session, a skate session, some time on both the driving and shooting range, a workout and a second lobster dinner at, yes, TacoLu.
Life isn’t like this everyday for the unofficial mayor of Jacksonville Beach. Kaufmann is a one-man show at Atlantic Video, which can lead to some very long days. His company also makes videos for corporate promotions, shoots weddings and parties and virtually anything else. But, at heart, Kaufmann is a surfer and is known by most as a surfer and skater.
“I feel like I am surfing as good as ever,” said Kaufmann, who still gets in the water as much as possible.
A 1977 graduate of Fletcher High, Kaufmann has called the Beach home for most of his life. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, he lived for brief periods in Hawaii and California, but always ended up back in Atlantic Beach.
“It’s a great home base to travel from. I used to go to Puerto Rico, Central America and Hawaii every year, and Jacksonville is a good place to travel from,” said Kaufmann, who is currently working on four new installments of “The Radical Side,” his former TV show dedicated to the local surf and skate scene. Each episode will air on CW-17 on Saturdays in April at midnight. “Each show will promote the Wavemasters contest; it’s all about the Wavemasters, which is the first weekend in May. I am calling it ‘Midnight Radness.’”
Kaufmann, who ran the Eastern Surfing Association for 15 years, has been running the annual Wavemasters contest in Jacksonville Beach for 17 years. While May can produce the occasional ground swell, the month is notoriously flat.
“I think about moving the contest every year,” said Kaufmann. “But, the Wavemasters is the season-opener for the local contest schedule. Plus, Jay Dodson has his contest [the Kona Pro] in the fall and that’s really cool.”
Kaufmann is arguably one of the most recognizable people at the Beach and that doesn’t come just from spending the better part of 55 years in the area. His “mayor” moniker is more indicative of his role as former peacemaker than politician. Kaufmann explained that back in the ‘70s when the local surf and skate scene wasn’t nearly as big as today, there was a distinct faction and palpable rift between surfers and skaters from the Beach and those who lived elsewhere.
“I made sure no one was being an idiot or an asshole,” said Kaufmann, adding his role spanned from the water to Kona to somebody’s empty pool. “I ran surf contests for years and, no matter which shop you represented, board you rode, or town you were from, I knew we all had to get along.”
Naturally, this unofficial role has led to talk of Kaufmann one day running for local office, something he has considered and won’t rule out.
“People have been talking to me about it for 20 years,” said Kaufmann. “If I ever ran, my main objective would be to get surfers and fishermen at the pier to get along better. If I got into politics, I would want to do the best job possible and that means going to meetings and learning politics. I would probably start by running for City Council.”