Life on the Outer Banks of North Carolina revolves around salt water. From simple economics to recreation and relaxation, the Atlantic Ocean is alpha and omega. Local legend and retired pro surfer, Jesse Hines knows that better than most. We had the chance to sit down with him at Surfin’ Spoon, his frozen yogurt shop, freshly un-shuttered having survived another season of winter doldrums.
Jesse is what you might call King of the Backslash. As a father/husband/pro surfer/model/frozen yogurt guru/children’s book author, Jesse seems to be involved in a little bit of everything. Just when we think there aren’t enough hours in the day to do anything else, he surprises us. “I played music for a while,” and there’s another one to add to the seemingly endless list of hats he wears.
Not long ago, he was an OBX local trying to make it big in the surfing industry. He and his wife Whitney moved cross country to California in pursuit of his dreams. “… And then I lost my sponsors. I was like, what am I gonna’ do?”
What he did is what a true Outer Banks local would do. Adapt. “I came back here and my friend told me he’d give me a job doing construction. I said, ‘I don’t know how to read a measuring tape, but I’ll come.’” He jokes in his personal brand of sarcastic, self-deprecation. “You have to adapt. At that time, it was kind of a failure for me to leave California and come back here.”
Eventually, the economy turned around and so did Jesse’s fortunes. “I got calls from companies and was able to get sponsored again.” But having learned just how fickle his chosen career path was, this time around he kept up his side hustles. “The whole time I was a pro surfer [on the OBX], I did construction and worked part time for my church doing the music. So I always had other stuff going on.”
Surfing also got him in shape for an unexpected side gig: modeling. While his good looks are undeniable, he seems to be unaware of this fact. Not exactly the kind of person you’d expect to be in a Polo ad in GQ. But, as it turns out, that’s exactly the kind of guy he is. “When I got called to go on the modeling job, I was on a construction jobsite. Everyone was making fun of me.” His voice drops a few octaves and gets intentionally gruffer and saltier, “‘Oh, model boy, where ya’ goin now?’” He laughs lightheartedly at his story. “I was terrible at construction. I was just a scrub that they yelled at every day. And then I’d fly to Miami or New York City and get pampered.”
Modeling took him around the U.S., but surfing took this small town kid all over the world. “I always got called to go on trips no one else wanted to go on… I went to Yemen, Oman, and places like Iceland and Norway.”
His top 5 world destinations and how he’d describe them in terms of frozen yogurt flavors?
- Indonesia, because it has the best waves. “It’d be like vanilla. You know you’re gonna get something good. Vanilla with cookie dough bites, reese’s cups, and hot fudge…you really can’t go wrong.”
- Tavarua, Fiji. Perfect waves, food, and culture. It’d be pomegranate raspberry. “It’s just refreshing and healthy and the waves are awesome. There’s no aftertaste.”
- Norway. “It’s the prettiest country I’ve ever seen.” Key Lime Pie. “It’s the ultimate flavor.”
- Iceland. “That’s like a mix of every flavor, because the topography is so different there. It’ll be a grassy field, then a volcanic beach with black rocks, and then a glacier. So, it’d be a mix of ten flavors in your bowl.”
- Mainland Mexico “because the waves are big and scary. It’s a big, crazy version of here… maybe if we had a Red Bull flavor, because that’s what you need to survive that place.”
He says the most important lessons he’s learned have come from his travels. “I think you learn about people. That, ultimately, we’re all the same. If you live in a hut in India or a cottage on the Outer Banks people are built the same.” He recounts a surfing adventure in Yemen. His guides led him over a mountain that gave way to an almost deserted beach. “There was one guy and his family, and they lived in this house made out of driftwood right on the beach. In the middle of nowhere. And he thought we were pirates from Somalia.” Soon enough they had that case of mistaken identity cleared up and then without any lavish ceremony, “He just set out a mat, killed one of his goats and made fish. We ate right on the beach.” Unexpected feasts with total strangers, those are the memories he cherishes.
To wrap things up, we asked him what he’d recommend to travelers coming to his own beach here on the Outer Banks:
- Surfin’ Spoon
- Art’s Place
- Obviously any beach
- The wild ponies in Corolla and Carova
- Any of the lighthouses
- Jockey’s Ridge — “I mean there aren’t too many places in the world you can run up a giant sand dune.”
Words by Laura Gomez-Nichols. Photos by Adam Ewing.