How athlete Clint Kimmins rebuilt his life – and career – after a stint in jail. By Jack Kerr.

Trials and tribulations: Clint Kimmins, 31, ironman triathlete

One day I’m travelling the world as a professional surfer and making great money; the next I’m in jail with some pretty rough people. I was an under-16 junior world champion, in the top five in the Australian junior circuit, and as I got a little bit older, I took it to Hawaii and started doing the big waves. It was great exposure – at one stage there I was on more magazine covers than any surfer in the world. Life couldn’t have been better. I was living my dream. Then I went to a friend’s birthday party on the Gold Coast, got beaten up by gatecrashers, and was sent to jail.

I was found guilty of excessive self-defence. The gatecrashers jumped on me, started kicking me in the head. I was in a pretty bad way. I looked around and saw a broken bottle there, and started waving it around. I did some major damage to one guy’s neck. That was deemed as self-defence, but the jury couldn’t justify a wound in the back. It was a very technical case, and they found I crossed the line from legally defending myself to unlawfully wounding somebody. At the time there was a lot of glassings in Australia, and the judge said in his summary that I was made an example of. It was a two-year sentence, suspended after six months.

Every day in jail, from when I woke up to when I went to bed, it was a game. With the sentence I was given, if I laid a finger on anybody, I would have been in there for another 18 months, so I really tried to stick to my own game plan: to be as trouble free as possible. A few things happened, but I was very tactical in there. I avoided a lot of heavy situations. If I got pushed into a corner or if a fight broke out, there was no way I was throwing a punch. There are a lot of guys in there who like to test people and prod people, so you have to keep your wits about you.

In jail, I picked up a whole new love for fitness. I hadn’t thought I had an athletic bone in my body, but training hard became my way of dealing with all the stress. I was working with weights that were bolted down, for obvious reasons; I’d be running around a 500-metre oval, doing up to 20 kilometres, and every time I reached the far part of the oval, there was a blind spot with the cameras, so I had to worry about something happening. So when I got outside and I was able to go for a run down the park, I loved it so much. I had some friends that competed in triathlon, and it went from there.

A lot of people thought I’d be naturally very good at triathlon. It was actually the opposite. A surfer’s genetic make-up is very different from that of a triathlete. Surfers are generally very stocky, powerful people, whereas triathletes are these long, slinky, very aerobic types. So when I started, I was terrible. But I was just sick of being judged – and in surfing, you are being judged all the time – and this was a first-past-the-line sport. And after what had happened to me,
I liked getting outdoors and exploring on my bike. A lot of people say it saved me, but that’s not the case at all. I’m doing it because I enjoy it.

Hawaii was my second home when I was surfing. But with a criminal conviction, and a violent one at that, I had a hard time getting access to the United States. And that’s where I got all my best results and my media exposure. So my sponsors couldn’t see the value in me not doing what I was best at. That is also a reason my career went down the tubes. But through money spent and the right people working for me, I was able to get a five-year visa back to the States. Everything had gone through, I was just waiting on the final stamp so I could go and compete in Kona – then the big government shutdown happened. Nothing was getting processed. That’s just another little chapter to the never-ending story of Clint Kimmins.

When I was actually surfing the big waves, I was never actually fit. Now that I’ve got all this fitness on my side, I think my athletic capabilities would push me to places in the big waves that I’ve never been before. But it’s easier said than done. It takes a lot of money to fly to these places. But now that I’ve got the visa, I’m using it, and the plan is to be an ironman and a big wave surfer. It’s time to take it up to the next level.


1 . This week’s highlights…

• Surfing: Billabong Pipe Masters

Until December 20, Banzai Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii

• Cricket: WBBL – Hobart Hurricanes v Adelaide Strikers

Saturday, 6pm (AEDT), Aurora Stadium, Launceston

• Basketball: WNBL – Dandenong Rangers v UC Capitals  

Saturday, 6.30pm (AEDT), Dandenong Stadium, Melbourne

• Basketball: NBL – Sydney Kings v Perth Wildcats

Sunday, 3pm (AEDT), Entertainment Centre, Sydney

• Soccer: A-League – Newcastle Jets v Melbourne City

Sunday, 5pm (AEDT), Hunter Stadium, Newcastle

• Cricket: BBL – Sydney Thunder v Sydney 6ers

Thursday, 7.40pm (AEDT), Spotless Stadium, Sydney

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 12, 2015 as "Trials and tribulations".

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Jack Kerr is an investigative journalist with an interest in law, technology and gambling.