Jesse Heilman: One Man, One Month, One Mile

Jesse Heilman is a professional surfer from Daytona Beach, Florida. His girl is seven time X-Games snowboard cross champ and 2006 Olympic silver medalist Lindsey Jacobellis, who resides in Encinitas, California. Jesse, having spent all summer visiting North County noticed an alarming amount of trash on the beaches—inspiring a clean up project dubbed One Man, One Month, One Mile.—Zander Morton

What’s the inspiration behind this project?

It started in Hawaii last year when I was staying at V-Land. I’d walk the same beach everyday and pick up trash after surfing. Somehow 24 hours later it would be completely full of junk again, so I started carrying a bag and cleaning that stretch every time I went surfing.

When did you decide to bring that method to Encinitas?

On Earth Day a few friends and myself cleaned the beach at Beacons and filled six giant trash bags in an hour. It was an eye opener, we hadn’t realized how much of a problem it was until we went out and targeted it. That gave me the idea to clean a mile of beach everyday for at least one month, since I was sticking around California anyway.

Does the city know you are doing this?

Before I started the owner of Waste Management was completely backing the idea. He gave me huge bins for the trash and was ready to donate a mobile storage pod, but the city shut him down.

What was their reasoning?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I had meetings with the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce and Parks and Recreation to explain my intentions, hoping they would let me put a temporary enclosed storage pod at Moonlight Beach to house the trash and encourage others to participate if they pleased. It would have only cost the city one parking space in their free lot for 30 days. The response was, “Oh that’s cool, but it’ll cost you 300 dollars a day.”

What a deal!

Yeah, right? I’m like are you really going to charge someone who is trying to provide a free service almost 10 thousand dollars?

So you took it into your own hands?

Yeah I went and rented my own storage unit, and in three weeks I’ve collected 150 pounds of trash. Considering 90 percent is little pieces of Styrofoam and plastic that’s a massive amount. It’s crazy because this is one of the cleanest stretches of beach in Southern California, and with minimal effort I’ve gathered this much. That’s what I’m trying to show people. It doesn’t take crazy dedication, just picking up what you see.

Every little bit helps.

Exactly. And I haven’t changed my lifestyle or given up anything to do this. In fact I’m surfing more than ever because I go to the beach no matter what every single day.

Jesse Heilman