Career Guide for Windsurfers

orange square Windsurfing is an exhilarating sport and one that enjoys huge participation around the world. If you're considering a career in watersports, gaining some windsurfing qualifications is a good idea because good instructors are in demand both in the UK and overseas.

Many of the large holiday companies employ instructors at their resorts and a good starting point once qualified would be to spend a summer working with one of the large operators such as Neilson or PGL, because they will allow you to build up your experience and confidence, and you get to spend every day working in the sunshine!

There are several options open to individuals wanting to become a windsurf instructor, the main qualifications are detailed below. It's a good idea to work on your personal skill level and get it as high as possible before you enrol on a course, that way you'll feel more confident when training in a group environment and you will be able to spend more time concentrating on the instructing skills being taught to you rather than worrying about your own technique.

RYA Assistant Instructor

This is the starting point for anyone wanting to pursue a career as a windsurf instructor. As a prerequisite you will be an intermediate non-planing sailor who will assist qualified instructors in teaching youth and adult beginner windsurfing courses. Wait, a non-planing what? Planing is when the wind gets up and the sail helps you move through the water with the aid of hydrodynamic lift. The wind speed needed to achieve planing is dependent upon the type of board and sail you are using. This qualification doesn't include a powerboat certificate or first aid training so you will only be able to teach under the supervision of an RYA senior instructor. The training consists of a 20 hour course followed by an assessment.

RYA Assistant Instructor: 2 day / £150

RYA Start Windsurfing Instructor

The next step up is the RYA Start Windsurfing Instructor course which enables you to teach levels 1 & 2 of the Youth Windsurfing Scheme and Start Windsurfing courses. Again, you will be under the supervision of a senior instructor and you must hold a current Powerboat level 2 and first aid certificate.

RYA Start Windsurfing Instructor: 5 day / £300
Powerboat Level 2 Certificate: 2 days / £300

RYA Intermediate Instructor Training

The intermediate course is split in two, Intermediate Non-Planing Instructor and Intermediate Planing Instructor. For the non-planing qualification you will need to have your Start Windsurfing Instructor certificate with at least 50 hours in your log book, for the planing qualification you will have to have the same qualifications plus your Non-Planing Instructor certificate. Once achieved you will be entitled to teach Intermediate courses.

RYA Intermediate Instructor: 4 day / £275

RYA Advanced Instructor Training

The next step up from the Intermediate Instructor course, you will be able to teach advanced courses in the RYA scheme as well as being assessed to lead skills clinics such carving and bump and jump. As you would imagine, to be eligible you will need your Intermediate Planing Instructor with at least 100 hours logged.

RYA Advanced Instructor: 5 day / £200

RYA Senior Instructor

This is the level you should aspire to be at when you first start out as a Windsurf Instructor. RYA Senior Instructors are highly experienced instructors with good managerial, organisational and leadership skills who are confident in organising and running group lessons and supervising beginner/ intermediate instructors. To be eligible for a Senior Instructor course you must have 2 years experience as a Star Windsurfing Instructor, as well as a recommendation from a Centre Principal. This is a 4 day course with continuous assessment.

RYA Senior Instructor: 4 day / £300

Some of the more established watersports companies like Rockley Watersports, UKSA and Plas Menai are now offering combined watersports training which could include Start Windsurfing, Dinghy Instructor, Powerboat Level 2, and First Aid over say a 4 week period. These types of courses will multi skill you and a great if you want to teach more than one discipline, obviously the price is higher but they often work out to be better value for money than paying for each training/ assessment individually.

As with most watersports there will be opportunities to further your career or take a different pathway, for example you could become an RYA Race Instructor which as the title suggests, will allow you to teach RYA Start Racing sessions. You could also train to become an RYA Instructor Trainer so you will be the one teaching the instructors of tomorrow.

The Interview

We have covered the basic career path for teaching windsurfing, but to get an idea of what it is really like to work in this industry we spoke to Simon, a qualified instructor who has since become an RYA windsurf trainer.

wind surferSimon: I got into watersports in an unexpected way and starting as an adult gave me a true sense of what I needed to do to become an effective instructor.

Was the goal always to become an instructor?

Simon: No. I left school at 16 and did not really know what to do. I followed in my father's footsteps and started an engineering apprenticeship. Despite enjoying many elements of this work it was not where my heart was. It was not until I went to university at age 21 that I discovered watersports by grabbing, thanks to a chance meeting with an old friend, a summer job with PGL in France as a Group Leader in a canoeing centre. I paddled the Ardèche River the whole summer long and took a canoe instructor training course in Wales in the Autumn, fully qualifying the next summer. This opened the world of watersports wide open for me and I began to take stock of the opportunities that may lie ahead.

Did you start off with the aim of specialising in a certain discipline or disciplines, such as Windsurf, Powerboat, etc?

Simon: No, but I knew needed to embrace a range of disciplines. After graduating, following 3 summers teaching canoeing in France, myself and a friend got a seasonal job in a ski resort in France. Whilst there I met someone who had arranged work for themselves for the following summer with Sunsail in Greece. One look at the brochure showing people blasting along on windsurfers and I just knew what I needed to do. I have to admit I was lucky to get through the interview as I was asked what my experiences in windsurfing and sailing were. I had none whatsoever and they were quite bewildered as to what I was doing there. I explained how I had done well in canoeing and that I could do it all again in new disciplines and I think I came across as being so keen that they conceded a job to me as beach assistant (basically rigging equipment for the guests and helping the instructors deliver their lessons). When I turned up in Greece I was fascinated by the possibilities of windsurfing and practiced every lunchtime and evening after work as well as days off. The team was superb and, despite me being the true rookie, gave me all the support I needed. I noticed fairly quickly that not all instructors were able to teach a range of watersports so I dived into windsurfing, dinghy sailing, powerboating, catamaran sailing and yacht sailing as all were up for grabs. A windsurf board and sail however was the weapon of choice for the windy days!

Which qualifications did you achieve and in what order?

Simon: Intermediate RYA competency certificates in windsurfing and dinghy sailing, followed by RYA Dinghy Instructor at the end of the first summer in Greece then RYA Level 1 Windsurfing Instructor (now RYA Start Windsurfing Instructor) soon after. When I later became qualified to teach intermediate windsurfing I unlocked more opportunities and took off to Antigua for 6 months to work. I am now qualified as a RYA Advanced-plus Windsurfing Instructor, RYA Powerboat Instructor, BSUPA Stand-up Paddleboard Instructor, BDA Dragon Boat Racing Centre Coach, RYA First Aid Instructor. When I became a RYA Windsurf Trainer (to run Windsurf Instructor courses) I was also selected for training as a RYA Inspector for UK and overseas centres. I also became a RYA Coach/Assessor, enabling me to run a range of RYA Dinghy Instructor courses.

You're an RYA Instructor Trainer. What does this entitle you to do?

Simon: I can run RYA instructor training and assessments in windsurfing, dinghy sailing and racing, catamarans and keelboats as well as RYA Senior Instructor training. Being a Trainer is the very best part of the job! Turning up to work with a team for a week in such amazing sports is a real privilege. Running Senior Instructor training is fairly special. This involves taking those who are very experienced instructors and training them in the management of RYA Training Centres. The course is a huge leap for most of the candidates and can be emotional at times with the pressure they put themselves under to succeed.

wind surferWhat gives you the greater satisfaction, teaching windsurfing to novices / intermediates or training the instructors of tomorrow?

Simon: Of course I love both but probably my favourite is to teach basic windsurf instructors to become high-quality intermediate instructors. This very dedicated element of the windsurfing community maximize their potential once they can teach people to zoom around using the footstaps and harness.

What opportunities are out there for people pursuing a career as a windsurf instructor?

Simon: The opportunities are endless! I am writing this in January in Cowes at UKSA where I am in the middle of running a RYA Start Windsurf Instructor course (with 3 other Trainers) for 29 candidates. This unprecedented number represents a high level of interest in bringing our sport to new people. All the candidates are currently discussing where they will work for their first season and many have already received offers (assuming they pass this course at the end of the week!) from UKSA or other UK centres as well as from overseas operators such as Neilson, Mark Warner and Sunsail. Some will discover other career paths and others will stay in the industry progressing to centre management or becoming involved in a range of watersports-related work/business.

As I mentioned earlier, aiming for competency and qualifications in a number of areas that suit the marine industry will give greater chances of getting work as a windsurf instructor in a preferred location. Photography, marketing and social media is becoming increasingly desirable as a skill set for those working in watersports – often supplementing the incomes of the more savvy instructors. Languages also help as well as maintenance skills and a willingness to turn your hand to any task and to work super-hard in order to support the team and to deliver the best service you can to the customer.

I'd imagine you consider yourself to have your dream job. What's the best thing about being a windsurf instructor / trainer?

Simon: I think the very best thing is that my experience and qualifications have often been the sole reason that I have been able to visit some of the most beautiful coastal locations in the world. It has been a complete ticket to ride and continues to provide work and thrilling experiences afloat alongside social and cultural stimulation. I remember being in Antigua for the Millennium and wanting so badly to windsurf at dawn on New Years Day. I went easy on the alcohol on New Years Eve yet still had a great time then managed to get a few hours sleep before getting up at dawn. Unsurprisingly I could not get any other mates out of bed to come for a windsurf so I went out myself. I blasted around the ocean for several hours with just myself and some flying fish for company. Just before it was time to head in to start work a squall came and turned the sea into a seething rage of wind and waves and all I could do was to cling onto my board until the squall passed then wobble back in on a flat windless sea. This was one of the most memorable experiences of my career and gave a real sense of having done something very special.

You're currently a Freelance Instructor, what does an average week look like and what sorts of places do you currently work?

Simon: No such thing as an average week! Whilst there are plenty of opportunities for coaching windsurfing there are only a very slim handful who can make a full-time year-round job of it at a fairly high level. As such, the other things that keep my diary full are the dinghy coaching, first aid training, leading Duke of Edinburgh groups on expeditions in Wales and

the Surrey Hills, inspecting windsurfing and sailing Training Centres for the RYA in the UK and overseas, consultancy and boat repairs.

In the last few years I have been super-lucky to have worked all over the world in such places as Bermuda, Dubai, Sydney, Caribbean, all over Greece and Turkey, Sardinia, Corsica, Cyprus, Lake Garda in Italy and the Red Sea. New opportunities arise each year. In the UK, I run courses in London, Isle of Wight, South Wales, all over the South and South-East and the Midlands.

Have you ever taught any famous faces how to windsurf?

Simon: Sadly not but I did teach musician Peter Gabriel to drive a powerboat. Actually when I think of the number of people I have taught to windsurf or taught to be a windsurf instructor over the years it does bring a smile to my face. This is especially relevant for those who have gone on to take their qualifications around the world, enabling them to enjoy some of the world's most amazing places.

Simon Winkley runs Simon Winkley Watersports Coach, offering Instructor Training, Coaching, First Aid Training and Consultancy. You can find out more on: 07866 489261.

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