Saturday, May 25, 2024

Arise, Ambassador Hill

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‘Inspired by Andrew Hill’: The Eastern Beach fisherman who has changed the fishing game despite hereditary heart disease. Photo / Supplied

Eastern Beach local Andrew Hill is a name not known to most outside the fishing community in New Zealand.

Most are also unaware of the impact that Hill has had on the fishing and marine landscape globally.

He has been instrumental in the research and development of Sea-Doo’s FishPro range, which has seen the growth of the phenomenon of jet ski fishing.

As a lead collaborator with the Global Product Strategy team, Hill has revolutionised the sport and stirred a passion of jet ski fishing for many.

Hill first purchased a jet ski with the intention of playing at the beach and towing a ski biscuit around for his kids.

“After just a couple of uses it got me thinking that there must be some more practical uses for this and it sort of brought me back to my childhood of fishing” he says.

“Around 12, 13 years ago I would always think about what products would be really cool to have… it would drive me nuts,” says Hill.

The innovative Hill went home that day and started designing a range of fishing equipment that could be mounted onto PWCs (personal water craft), including rod holders and chilly bins.

Through many rounds of trial and error and multiple developments, the ‘ultimate rod holder’ was born.

Hill’s long-time friend Mark Greenfield says that at the start “there were probably about 10 of us in the whole country that were fishing off PWCs and now there would be over 1000”.

“Boaties hated us for a long time because the reputation for jet skis was that people would just speed around the harbour making a whole lot of noise, not that we are guys in our mid 30s and 40s going out there to catch fish and go back to our families. This is starting to change now,” says Greenfield.

“Everywhere I went and people saw the ultimate rod holder, they were saying ‘where do I get this thing’ so the idea popped into my head that this was something that I could sell and make a business out of,” says Hill.

With so many people getting started with the sport, Hill established his own jet ski fishing tournament at Eastern Beach, which initially had 50-60 PWCs turn up.

The tournament has now been going for 10 years, with more than 120 anglers registered in 2019 before the wave of Covid-19.

“It is pretty spectacular to see all those people sharing a passion, seeing what they catch on the day, meeting people and having a great time,” says Hill.

With the fast-growing sport now having a platform, it didn’t take long for PWC manufacturers to recognise its potential, which is when Hill’s whole chapter changed.

“Sea-Doo approached me and asked if I could help them and get involved with setting up the first fishing platform, which is where the Sea-Doo FishPro series was born,” he says.

Andrew has been recognised as a Sea-Doo Global Brand Ambassador now for almost five years.

Hill has been a Sea-Doo ambassador for almost five years and was instrumental in the research and development of Sea-Doo’s FishPro range. Photo / Supplied

“I have the luxury of them [Sea-Doo] coming to me and saying ‘write out your list and we will keep going through it’, and it is really cool to see my ideas come to life. Much of what you see were the things I suggested to them,” says Hill.

Hill has designed roughly 25 products related to the evolving jet ski fishing sport.

“About 10 years ago one of my mates told me that I would eventually be helping one of the big manufacturers and I just said, ‘yeah whatever, they would never find me in little old New Zealand’,” he says.

Life hasn’t all been plain sailing for Hill. Hereditary heart disease he has already seen him undergo multiple operations as well as double by-pass surgery.

“It was pretty hard in hospital thinking that everything I have done could stop,” he says.

This big wakeup call made Hill appreciate life and what he had done previously to get him where he is now.

“It is nice that fishing is my job and I get to go out as much as I want but there is nothing greater for me than seeing other people enjoying the experiences that I got to have,” Hill said.

“If I can be making the most of life and getting as many people started with the sport and enjoying what I love, that would be an awesome legacy,” he says.

Every time Hill goes out fishing, he is thinking about how things can be better and what more he can contribute to the sport.

“There are still a few other things on my wish list that might never come but you never know how things will happen,” says Hill.

“In a perfect scenario, I would like to launch my PWC on the beach, leave it sitting in water floating, push a button and then go park my car without it even touching the beach”.

“One big thing that I have learnt is understanding that things take time and they have to be passed off… it is quite a thorough process and we don’t want to overcomplicate the models for customers,” he says.

Hill has notably recently featured in Sea-Doo’s newest instalment of the ‘Inspired By’ short film series which captures how his grassroot concepts turned into the global phenomenon that is the Sea-Doo FishPro.

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