I’ve known Auckland plumber Jesse James Cassrels for some time. Apart from occasional bouts of seasickness, it’s hard to fault the guy. He’s outgoing, enthusiastic, and down to earth. He also does some pretty cool shit. A brief squiz of his Instagram page will reveal exotic locations, extreme sports, fast vehicles, and, of course, beautiful women!

So, how does Jesse manage to fit all this action into his tradie schedule? Quite easily, by the sounds. In fact, Jesse views his plumbing trade as the enabler, rather than the handbrake, for his adventures.

“Growing up on Auckland’s North Shore, I always had a passion for extreme sports and adventure. That’s probably why school wasn’t really for me. When I left school at 16, I wanted to become a pro-wakeboarder and travel the world. Luckily, my old man, who was an electrician, encouraged me to get into a trade apprenticeship.

“He probably knew I wasn’t a word-class boarder, too,” laughs Jesse.

I asked Jesse why he chose plumbing.

“I kind of stumbled into it, to be honest. I always wanted to be a sparkie like my dad, but at that age, I think we might have butted heads a bit too much if he took me on! One of Dad’s friends was a plumber and lived nearby, so I started out with him. After only a week, I knew I loved it.”

His romance with the tradie life continued to blossom. It was a good move for Jesse – by the time he’d finished his apprenticeship, he had a trade behind him and had saved enough cash to catch up with his penniless wakeboarding mates in America.

“I had a really cool boss, Eddie from Eagle Plumbing. He didn’t mind me shooting off for three months of the year. After a few years, he said, ‘Why don’t you contract for me? That’ll give you more freedom and flexibility.’

“So, I went out on my own and started Water Active Ltd. I love the residential stuff. You’re on a nice building site and can have a good relationship with the clients. It’s more personal, which suits my personality.

“I’m sure I’d enjoy commercial work, too. Residential is just what I’ve always done and what I know.”

A self-confessed adrenaline junkie, when Jesse isn’t on-site, he’s skydiving, surfing, motorbiking, riding his Yamaha WaveRunner, snowboarding, fishing, or spearfishing. If it’s exciting, you can bet he’ll give it a nudge.

“Plumbing has funded my travel and adventures. Should I have bought a house? Probably. Have I had a fucking good time? Absolutely!”

When I caught up with Jesse for a burger and a beer, he brought me some spoils from his latest adventure – a loin of gleaming southern bluefin tuna. He’d been out with a mate the day before (on a weekday) and had an epic result, nailing not only two 40kg tuna but also a healthy bag of crayfish off the Coromandel.

“It was the dream day. Those are the days you’ll always remember… that’s why I try to put my hand up for any mission on offer.”

I don’t know how he finds the time, but Jesse also gives back to the trade industry and community as a Trade Collective Ambassador.

“The Trade Collective is all about educating and inspiring school leavers to think about taking up a trade. We want youth in NZ to reconsider some of their flawed perceptions around trades.”

The concept is simple: they travel around Kiwi high schools with a genuine and relatable approach, sharing what a trade apprenticeship and career look like, and shedding light on the earning potential and lifestyle opportunities that the industry can offer.

“We just have a chat and try to make the presentations as interactive as possible. Some of the key messages are that tradies are in high demand, they can earn while they learn, and many will be set up to start their own business in their twenties.”

“We want to show these kids that with a good attitude and a trade under your belt, the world truly is your oyster.”