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Industry Spotlight: How to Become a Watersports Instructor

how-to-be-a-watersports-instructorHave you always wanted to ditch the 9-5 desk job and work outside? Well a career as a Watersports Instructor could be for you.

Tez Plavenieks is a fully qualified Windsurfing and Surfing Instructor and now works as a Content Manager and Copywriter in the watersports industry. In this interview with Jobulo he tells us about his earlier career as an Instructor and shares some tips on how others can find a job in the industry.

What Made You Want to Become an Instructor?

I started surfing when I was five and when I got older I decided I wanted to be involved in watersports as a career so opted for the coaching path. I enrolled on a four month Professional Watersports Coaching Course which takes students of all levels, gets their personal skills up to an adequate level and then puts them through the relevant coach assessments. Chances are, as with me, if you’re going to invest the time and money in a venture such as this then you’ll already be involved with one or more of the sports featured on these types of courses. As already mentioned, I could surf to a high level, I could dinghy sail, had dabbled with windsurfing and tried kayaking. My course tutors spent much of the time focusing on my lower level skills of the sports I didn’t participate in regularly, getting me tuned up ready for assessment.

Do You Need Any Previous Qualifications to Become an Instructor?

No, not even prior experience. Some critics don’t like this fact but anyone can train to be a Watersports Instructor. All you need is the desire and some get up and go.

What Are The Courses Like?

The actual instructor courses are around five days and within the assessment you have to be able to demonstrate enough personal skills to be slightly better than your students, have the relevant theory/knowledge under your belt to be able to pass on to students, understand safety issues and hold relevant safety certificates (something else the four month course trains students for) and display the correct teaching methods as laid down by each sport’s national governing body. Having completed these tasks you will hold basic coaching qualifications which will open up employment opportunities within a variety of teaching establishments. Some candidates choose to stay in the UK and set up their own school, some work for UK based private coaching companies, some end up working for outdoor activity centres while the majority, myself included, usually head overseas to work for one of the many watersports holiday companies – in my case Neilson. Once placed you then spend roughly 8 months delivering week long coaching courses to holiday makers from all walks of life. You do get to mix it up and cross over disciplines but I opted to stick with windsurfing as that’s what I enjoyed the most. During your season there will be the opportunity to gain advanced level qualifications, which I did, and after a few seasons I ended up specialising and just coaching advanced level students. I also helped out with staff training in my latter years as a coach and also ended up managing the overall beach operation of two of Neilson’s busiest resorts. During one of my summer seasons I was persuaded by a friend to sign up for a winter – previously winters had involved Caribbean stints. I did the ‘necessary’ and applied for a winter role which placed me in the Three Valleys region of the French Alps. All in all I did seven years as a seasonaire before moving back permanently to the UK.

What Personality Traits Do You Think Someone Has to Have to Succeed as an Instructor?

Patience/tolerance is needed as is an outgoing personality. You need to be able to listen and be perceptive. Spotting self consciousness, exhaustion, dehydration etc especially in adults is key. Being a team player helps as well.

What is a Typical Day at Work Like?

Being a coach is definitely NOT 9 – 5. Basically you are on duty any time you are in front of guests – which is a lot! However, that’s not to say you can’t have fun. In fact most guests will love the fact you’re enjoying life. You’ll start early and finish late and only have one day off per week. Everyone is expected to get stuck in on socials and end of week BBQ’s/last night meals etc. However, this should be seen as a chance to relax and really get to know your students. It’s actually super fun!

What Is the Toughest Part of the Job?

Tiredness, burn out, dealing with difficult guests and obstructive suppliers. It all just adds to the mix. Making sure you avoid injury, where possible, is also key. Tropical climates and cuts don’t mix…I nearly lost my leg after getting blood poisoning.

What CV Advice Can You Share?

Candidates should play on their communication skills, willingness to learn and openness towards new challenges. Qualifications obviously play a major part but ultimately companies look at personality traits first.

Have You Got Any Tips on Finding Work Abroad?

Most Watersports Centres are established and known. Once you complete your initial training, your course tutors will have access to this type of information readily. A search online will also give plenty of good results. The main watersports holiday providers in the UK start advertising jobs around Christmas for the new summer season and around July/August for winter. With such a large catalogue of resorts there are plenty of positions to be filled. ‘Going it alone’ is slightly trickier but is still feasible, it may just take a few more emails before you get a response.

If Someone is Looking to Become an Instructor, What Advice Would You Give to Them?

Go for it! You’ll pick up so many different life skills and if you choose to head overseas then you’ll learn more about the big wide world than any classroom can teach. In many cases becoming a Watersports (or Snowsports) instructor is the ‘making of’ many people.

To find out more about this career follow Tez on Twitter and check out his blog:
Tez Plavenieks

Photography: Julia Toms