Born and raised in Charleston, SC, Robert Hess has spent his life in and on the water. From an early age he was raised to love and respect the ocean and all recreational opportunities that came with it. He began with recreational surfing and wakeboarding and later on began exploring SUP, Outrigger, and Dragonboating. Robert has always strived to become an all-around waterman.
In 2014 Robert was encouraged to try out for the USA Dragonboat team in hopes to travel to Poznan, Poland for the 2014 World Championships and made it! He had the opportunity to paddle with some of the top Olympic athletes and coaches associated with Team USA Canoe/Kayak. Since then he has been training harder than ever to make it into the SUP scene and take home some first place finishes.
When and where did you start SUP ?
Hahaha! I remember it like it was yesterday, Isle of Palms SC, April 2011 on a foam 10’6” foam top. My brother and I were getting wrecked in the surf (around knee high) but we had a blast! From that moment on, I was hooked!
Which sports did you practice before? And now?
I grew up playing baseball and Hockey up to the collegiate level but I always had other hobbies. In my teens, I surfed, wakeboarded and skateboarded. In my early 20s I started to focus more on weightlifting and CrossFit and learned a lot about fitness and nutrition and became an ACSM Certified Professional trainer. I even took a stab at rugby, which was awesome but boy was it rough on the body!!!
Nowadays I still enjoy a myriad of activities but I spend the majority of my time on the water alternating between SUP surf, weightlifting and long distance paddling.
What do you do today?
Whatever I can! I surf, road bike, paddle, skateboard, canoe or whatever else that will keep me moving!
How have the sports you did before helped with SUP?
I think that all the sports I played have taught me how to take a beating, both physically and mentally! I’m always asking myself, “Why am I doing this? This hurts!” and I just push on because I know it won't last forever.
What attracts you to SUP?
The number one thing that attracts me to SUP is being on the water. I don’t care if it is a river the ocean or a lake. You can SUP in any body of water and the challenge will always be different. Also, the paddle community is amazing and the sport gives you a total body workout, especially when you are training to compete!
SUP race, SUP surf or something else?
I love everything SUP! Racing, surfing, fishing, or just cruising around.
SUP is booming, do you think this is a fad or a change in attitudes over the long term?
To me, SUP looks like it is here to stay. I would consider a fad something that dies off after a year or two and SUP has surpassed that by a long shot. It's growing and being pushed in every way, even internationally. I can’t wait to see where this sport goes!
Do you participate in competitions?
Yes. Traveling with a board can be hard so I try to attend all the local races and then sprinkle in races from North Carolina to the Keys. I’d love to go to all of them though!
2013 - Present: Charleston Paddle Club Coach
2014 - Present: Team USA Dragonboat
June 2016: Made it to 92 out of the top 100 SUP racers in the world from supracer.com.
35th Carolina Cup 14” long course, Wrightsville beach, NC
7th - Key West Classic 14’ long course, Key West, FL
1st overall in the Atlantic Aesthetics SUP series (multiple races) 14’ long course, Charleston, SC
2nd in the Chucktown Showdown 14”, long course, Charleston, SC
1st Beaufort Dragonboat Festival Beaufort, SC
2nd in the 12.6 (20-29) Top 50 overall (All classes/division) 14’- long course, Key West, FL
6th 2015 Chucktown Showdown 14’- long course, Charleston SC
1st overall Atlantic Aesthetics - SUP series (multiple races) 14’- long course, Charleston, SC
1st Lake Murry Classic 14’- long course, Lexington, SC
Participated in the Dragonboat World Champions Poznan, Poland
2nd Joe Hiller Longboard Classic, Isle of Palms, SC
1st Place SUP Patriot Challenge 12’6- long course, Charleston, SC
2nd Place SUP Golden Nugget 12’6- long course, Charleston, SC