ProStaffer of the Month: Jesse Hieb
Wisconsin native, Jesse Hieb, is Aqua-Bound’s ProStaffer of the Month for May, 2018. He’s a big fan of standup paddleboarding—and especially SUP marathons…
AB: How did you get started with SUP? What do you love about it?
JESSE: I got started pretty late in life with SUP and paddling in general. I built my first kayak because we couldn’t afford to buy one as college students, but I didn’t really fall in love with being on the water until after my college years.
I was searching for a way to get out into nature, and paddling became this perfect solution since I lived in Milwaukee, right next to Lake Michigan.
I began SUPing about three years ago. I bought my first board in an REI Garage sale. I was intrigued by SUP and thought it might just be another way for me to enjoy the water. But as it turned out I fell just totally in love with it above kayaking and canoeing!
It’s a mixture of getting a different view, to being able to sit, stand or lay on the board. Most of the time I actually just paddle out onto Lake Michigan about a half mile, lay down on my board and relax for a few hours.
Even though I’ve done some long paddling trips, I refuse to make SUPing a competition sport. For me, being on the water is a way for me to connect to the natural world. It’s a way for me to re-set. SUP makes that possible so that I can be successful in other areas of my life.
AB: How do you give back to the SUP community?
JESSE: Giving back to the SUP community is something that I didn’t really consider until the last couple years. I had been an outdoor recreationalist for my whole life, but that is as far as things ever went.
About two years ago I went on a trip down the Wisconsin River that made me really reevaluate my purpose and my role in the outdoor community. I decided I wanted to do more than just enjoy the outdoors. I wanted to advocate for it.
One of the ways I knew I could do that was to help others fall in love with the natural world so they, too, would want to take care of it. People don’t take care of things they don’t have an emotional connection to.
In the last couple years I’ve been working on a bunch of different projects:
First, getting people out onto the water. I’m working on putting together a fleet of boards that river/water advocacy groups can have access to get more people out on the water. The more people paddling, the stronger the paddling industry will be, the louder voice it will have, and the more advocates the rivers and lakes will have protecting them.
This is a work in-progress and I’m really excited about the paddling companies that have seen the possibilities with creating a program like this!
Second, as a professional film producer and director, I’ve always loved telling amazing stories about people who have a love for the outdoors. I’ve been working with film crews all over the world to produce micro-documentaries designed to sell the outdoors.
That’s right. I don’t care about selling any products! I just want to sell the outdoors, and I hope one day people will watch one of them and it’ll get them to walk outside and soak up the sun…
The last piece of the puzzle I’ve been working on is investing in companies and organizations that are addressing water issues. Specifically, technology that will reduce waste and recycle or reuse materials that might otherwise be found in the waters I love to spend time on.
AB: How are you involved in the SUP scene?
JESSE: I love the SUP scene, but I definitely don’t make it to as many races as most ProStaffers. It goes back to that whole “SUP isn’t a competition sport for me” thing. Rather, I try to get people out on my board whenever they mention they want to try it.
I’ll attend some of the different paddling events and I go speak at events pretty regularly about some of the adventures I’ve taken.
My dream would be to just travel the United States and offer paddling excursions for river advocacy groups that would introduce people to paddling. Is that a thing? I’m probably going to make it be one…!
AB: Is there an Aqua-Bound dealer you help out?
JESSE: I currently work part time on the weekends at my local REI. It’s a pretty sweet gig. I pretty much stand around talking about the things I love all day while meeting complete strangers who also love the same thing! But hey, if anyone else wants me to swing by and talk paddling, I’d be down!
AB: How do you introduce new paddlers to SUP?
JESSE: I offer my board up to anyone who even mentions it in passing. But like I said, I’m working on trying to expand that so we can get more people out there falling in love with the water and paddling in general.
AB: Are there any conservation or environmental efforts you’re involved in?
JESSE: I like a good river clean up here and there, and I’ve made more phone calls to legislators in the last year than ever before!
When I was on the Wisconsin River (see about that here), someone I hold in extremely high regard told me the best thing anyone could do right now was go and enjoy the hard work people spent the last 40 years doing to revitalize the river.
So even though I’m not connected to a specific clean-up, I am trying to focus on developing future advocates by removing barriers to them developing that connection to the outdoors.
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