Get To Know Speed Boat Guide Xavier Hesse

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After discovering speed boating in Stockholm and then in London, “Parisspeed” guide Xavier Hesse brought the activity to Paris, with his first year of business in 2012. Having lived in the City of Light for more than 15 years, and having traveled the world, Xavier takes speed boat tours that cruise the Seine, taking in such sites as the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Ile de la Cité, with 20 minutes of pure speed thrown in for good measure.
How did you get into speed boating in Paris?

I have been traveling around the globe on a weekly basis for about 12 years, and that’s how I discovered this speed boat activity in Stockholm and then in London. Then I realised it did not exist in Paris. I ‘copy and pasted’ it, but I had to be courageous, as we are operating in France with an over regulated environment: it took me three years just to get authorisation.

How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?

By sailing with clients on the most beautiful Parisian avenue, the Seine, I enriched my cultural knowledge for about three years, and became a guide, knowing that I am still learning!

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day might start with a one and a half hour tour with 12 clients, embarking at the Port de l’Arsenal. We take them through the Canal Saint Martin Tunnel, and then we pass a lock to have a 20 minute speed experience, and finally a cruise in Paris circling the Cité and St Louis Islands.

Afterwards, I might take three to four one hour tours with speed and cruise experiences, and of course guide commentary while cruising, celebrating with a glass of champagne.

I might finish with a final one and a half hour tour with the Canal Saint Martin Tunnel at the end, at about 6pm.

From time to time, I also do night tours, one of the greatest experiences when sailing in Paris.

What is the best part of your job?

Sailing into Paris when it’s sunny and/or at night or very early in the morning, such as 5 AM.

What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve had on a guided tour?

Seeing folks fishing for the ‘Silure Fish’, an up to 4.5 metre fish, in the Seine river, it’s very impressive.

What is one French phrase clients should definitely learn for the tour?

Vivez une expérience unique de Hors Bord sur la plus belle Avenue de Paris : La Seine et ce sont nos clients qui en parlent le mieux : “Le conducteur était accueillant, marrant et très sympa et on a appris des tas de choses intéressantes sur Paris!…A recommander sans hésiter !”

[Enjoy a unique speed boat experience on the most beautiful avenue of Paris: the Seine, and our clients say it best: "The driver was friendly, funny and very nice and we learned lots of interesting things about Paris! ...Definitely recommended!"]
Has anyone ever fallen off the boat? What is your advice for those nervous about getting on a speed boat?

It’s never happened on a ‘client tour’, we do not do sailing tours where our clients could fall into the water. But I must admit it happened once on a ‘private tour’, one of our most experienced pilots tipped his wife into the water (and he did not realise it!)

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?

I do not like my relationship with the public affairs people from the Port etc – the only thing they do is tell us what not to do and send us invoices!

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?

A skilled guide is a ‘must do’: it’s just like if you visit a museum on your own compared with visiting with a guide: you would not have the same experience at all, you would not see the (for instance) painting the same way and you would learn so much about the painter’s inspiration, the context of the painting, and more. It’s similar for us, we have so much to tell you when cruising across Paris.

Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?

When cruising in Paris, I always try to enrich the sight seeing with insights as a guide, which clients really like.

Tell us something about speed boating in Paris that only a guide would know – what can you see in or about Paris, taking a speed boat tour, that you would never experience otherwise?

Cruising under the Canal Saint Martin and turning around at the end of the Tunnel without having to pass the boring nine locks – that’s Parisspeed!

It mixes a speed boat experience with a guide’s insights [for a tour] that is totally unique.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

Our tour guides have to be very knowledgeable about Paris as well as very skilled pilots.

If you like this, you might also like Explore Paris.

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