Gumbies Ambassador Series: Beach Clean-up With Joe

Meet Joe Whitson, the "original" Gumbies ambassador! Joe has been proudly wearing Gumbies for many years and puts them to good use keeping his local beaches clean. Joe started the organisation @Binafit around Cocoa Beach, Forida.

Lets find out more about our original ambassador Joe and his organisation Binafit.

Hi Joe, tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Vero Beach and Cocoa Beach, Florida (East Coast/ Atlantic Ocean). I was in law enforcement for 32 years.  I retired as a Deputy Sheriff on March 01, 2021.  I am currently an explosives detection K-9 Handler.

Where is your local beach spot?

I started surfing when I was 12 years old.  I've always loved and respected the beach.  Anywhere in Cocoa Beach is a great spot to go to the beach.  I guess we can start at Kelly Slater Way (aka 3rd street north).  This is one of the local favorites.   

Obviously, beach life is incredibly important to you, what do you find so special about it? 

There is so much to enjoy living on the beach.  It's a mellow, laid-back, relaxed lifestyle.  Surfing, bodyboarding, body surfing, skim boarding, riding bikes, metal detecting, shell collecting, bird watching, dolphin watching, rocket launches, Patrick Space Force Base planes flying by, windsurfers, land windsurfers, boating, swimming, beach volleyball, just to name a few.  Most people are having fun because they are on vacation, and the others are happy because they live here.  I am also a surf instructor, just in case, you'd like to learn.  There are instructors/tour guides for anything you'd like to get involved with here.

Other than the obvious stuff (walking, sandcastles, swimming) what else can beaches offer us? Any advice on how to get into those things?

You get to meet a lot of people from around the world.  Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to Disney World.  Some people save their money for years to come to visit the place I am blessed to call my home.  We have many great restaurants.  We have about 11,000 full-time residents, and it seems like we all know each other or know someone who knows the next person.

You organise beach clean ups under your organisation bin-a-fit - how did that come about?

I came up with the BINAFIT idea when my wife and I were doing a beach clean-up one day at 9th street south in Cocoa Beach back in 2014.  We felt so good after about an hour of "binafitting" (getting fitter from litter), we thought we should establish a non-profit organization, so we could have an organized way of getting groups of people involved, or just motivating individuals to do clean-ups on their own and make it part of their lifestyle.  But being a full-time Sheriff's Deputy, and my wife is a full-time Registered Nurse, we found it very difficult to do this while sometimes working 70 hours per week.  So, we made sure we at least had a presence on social media and scheduled clean-ups on our days off.

We would have items that were donated from businesses that we raffled off at the end of our 1-hour clean-up.  We also had a few businesses that donated breakfast items at the beginning of our event.  Sometimes we had yoga/fitness instructors who would show up and offer their services before, during, or after the clean-ups.  We would have competitions on who found the most trash and/or the most unique pieces of trash.  That person would get a gift card or another item that was donated.  Some people donated artwork, gift cards, flip flops, t-shirts, watches, to name a few.  We have had a great time during every event.  We have had people from different parts of this country and the world, send us photos of them holding a piece of trash that they picked up, showing that they are a true friend with BINAFIT.

We are still hoping someday to get our official NON-PROFIT status.  We know we have great ideas on how to motivate people to get involved, but we need more people involved on the business side of it to make it extremely successful. 

Have you ever been tempted to use the 'strong arm of the law' on anyone spoiling your local beach?

When I was in Law Enforcement, I did write a few people citations for littering.  I educated more people on the importance of not littering, rather than writing them a citation.  

Finally, your beach activities no doubt influence your footwear choice - how many pairs of Gumbies do you have, and which are your favourites?

We have five pairs of Gumbies.  Our favourites are the ISLANDER.