National Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NBLQ) and National Rescue Standards Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NaRS BL) These courses cover Beach Lifeguard theory and preventing incidents. Open Water rescue skills where you will take part in simulated rescues in the sea. Life support resuscitation techniques for adults and children. And first aid which may include HSE First Aid at Work, a valuable qualification to all employers. Both qualifications also allow you to add on specialist modules. Age restrictions and minimum levels of fitness and competence both in and out of the water may be pre-requisites for this course. Please check with your chosen course provider.
For pool lifeguards, as well as the Royal Life Saving Society already mentioned above, there is also the Swimming Teachers Association.
National Aquatic Rescue Standard (NaRS) and National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ). These courses last about 32 hours in total, usually taught over a six day period. The course content will be a mix of theory and practical of the theory learned. Safe pool practice, lifesaving techniques and emergency situations are the focus of the course. The final day will be reserved for assessment. Pre-requisites for the courses are not usually too demanding, though you should check with the course provider to see whether you qualify to take part.
We spoke to Chris about her experience as a Beach Lifeguard in Cornwall. "I think I was always going to be a lifeguard. I grew up by the sea and spent most weekends at the beach with my friends. My best friend's brother was a lifeguard and he encouraged me to get the NBLQ qualification. I did the course at Lusty Glaze Beach in Newquay. We had to do quite a bit of theory, CPR and first aid. But the open water skills were the most enjoyable and where I learned the most about the job - using a torpedo buoy to get to and rescue a casualty, that kind of thing. I had a part time job at the local beach but there wasn't the opportunity to go full time during the summer, so I managed to get a job in America. That's another benefit of the qualification, that you can use it in other countries!"
Surfing in the UK used to be under the control of the British Surfing Association. But relatively recent changes to the way sport is governed saw the demise of this association, and the creation of Surfing GB. This new body officially recognises and sanctions two organisations - the International Surfing Association (ISA) and the Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI). The old BSA award stopped being recognised at the end of 2012, so if you wish to teach people how to surf you now need to be either an ISA Surf Instructor/Coach or an ASI Surf Instructor/Coach. All coaches also have to register with Surfing GB as they are the National Governing Body.
No matter which of the two surfing schemes you decide to follow, you will need one of the life saving awards mentioned above. From the SLSA you can choose either the Surf Coach Lifesaving Award or the Beach Lifeguard Award. Or from the RLSS you can get the Beach Lifeguard Award. These three are recognised by Surfing GB.
ISA Surf Coach & ASI Surf Coach
Completion of either award allows you to teach surfing internationally. Certification lasts for one year and is subject to a renewal fee. The ASI state that renewal is linked to professional development and to check that you are still qualified to teach. The ISA would probably say something similar, though their online literature just refers to it as a renewal fee and makes no mention of any checks on your ability to coach/instruct. Before enrolling for the ASI, you must have ASI intermediate surfer level or above surfing skills. And for the ISA you must be a competent surfer with at least two years experience. To find out a bit more about the ISA option, we spoke to Simon, a surfing coach.
Have you always been a keen and regular surfer?
Simon: I started surfing in 1990 keen as mustard, I'm still the same now.
How did your career as a Surf Instructor start?
Simon: In 2005 a surf instructor job became available in North Wales, so I applied and booked myself onto the necessary courses. NARS beach lifeguard and British Surfing Association level 1 instructor, (now superseded by ISA, International Surfing Association and ASI, Academy of Surfing Instructors qualifications). Even if I didn't get the job, it was the start of summer and I was flexible to work anywhere.
What made you want to become an instructor in the first place?
Simon: I have always had a passion for passing on the joys of surfing to friends, but ask anyone that has been taught a sport by a friend. Tuition can be a little brief and basic, especially from a surfer desperate to get in the water. I really wanted to learn how to pass my knowledge across in a safe, structured manner. Like so many people in the UK, I was also a 'weekend wave warrior', living inland and missing so much surf because of my limited water time. Being nearly 2 hours from the nearest beach, meant evening surfs during the week were a real mission and impossible during the winter. I got the job as a surf instructor, this was my chance to live at the coast.
What qualifications do you currently hold to enable you to teach surfing to the public?
Simon: NARS Beach Lifeguard. ISA level 2 Instructor.
Was there anything particularly difficult about any part of your training/ assessment?
Simon: The beach lifeguard exam and training are brutal, especially for those doing a 1 week intensive course. I trained hard for 6 months just to meet the physical criteria. Becoming a top level surf coach has also meant numerous courses and assessments.
What qualifications and training do you recommend for anyone looking to become a surf instructor?
Simon: For the beach lifeguard, very good physical fitness. Excellent swimming ability with regular training. 2 to 3 pool sessions a week, same for running, as a minimum. Good board and casualty handling skills and a thorough knowledge of first aid. NARS is the international standard. There are 2 options, (both internationally recognised) for surf instructor qualifications. ISA or ASI. Candidates need to have a good personal standard of surfing, (you are assessed). Also excellent communication skills with an ability for public speaking, good on site risk assessing skills and group control are essential.
What possibilities are there for newly qualified instructors both in the UK and overseas?
Simon: The surf industry in the UK is now huge and although the hub is still the SW (Devon and Cornwall) there are surf schools all around the coast. It is important to check the credentials of potential employers as they are still a lot of unregulated surf schools operating below a safe standard. If in doubt get in touch with Surfing GB, the UK's governing body for the ISA. Internationally the world is your oyster, all major surf destinations have surf schools looking for staff.
Finally, what's your favourite wave in the UK and Overseas?
Simon: I definitely cannot say where my favourite wave in the UK is. Some surf spots are closely guarded secrets whose location is known to only a few! Overseas, it would be a close call between Ouakam in Senegal or HT's in Indonesia, but I know waves to equal these on our fair isle.
Simon Turner runs Aberadventures.com, a Surfing GB Academy status surf school at Borth, near Aberystwyth. For more information call: 07976 061514.